How Does Movember Work?
For the past 15 years, men around the world have sported moustaches throughout the month of November, raising both funds and awareness around men’s health. The focus of Movember has traditionally been prostate and testicular cancer, though in recent years that’s expanded to include mental health awareness and suicide prevention. 2018 marks the tenth anniversary of the initiative in Ireland, and as Jack O’Connor from the Movember Foundation explains, it’s all about getting men to become more proactive when it comes to their health and wellbeing.
Making Behavioural Changes
“What we’re really starting to focus on is changing men’s behaviour,” Jack begins. “The guys who grow mo’s for us become walking, talking billboards for men’s health; they spark that conversation. When it comes to prostate cancer, one of the things we discovered pretty early on was the importance of actually getting men to go to the doctor and take ownership of their health. If we can flick that switch, that will go further than any of the programmes.” For Jack, who studied psychology, this applies to both physical and mental health issues. “We’re really taking an upstream approach”, he says. “We’re trying to shift the culture through education and awareness around suicide prevention, encouraging men to talk about things. We want the people around them to dig a bit deeper, to ‘unmute’ the conversation.”
When it comes to male suicide, the statistics are pretty shocking. “Around the world, a man dies from suicide every minute, which is over half a million deaths every year,” says Jack. It’s important to remember though that through talking, vulnerable men can come through these dark, difficult periods. “Anyone we’ve spoken to who’s attempted to take their own life has said that it was a temporary state of mind, and that they’re very grateful they weren’t successful. I think that tells us that we really need to change. If we can educate people on how to support and encourage men to be more vocal, we can have a massive impact. We need to drop this archaic image of the stoic, stiff-upper-lipped man who has absolutely no emotions and feels nothing.”
When it comes to physical health, Jack says it’s all about knowing your body. “We had a campaign in April around testicular cancer”, he explains, “called ‘Know Thy Nuts’! When you’re familiar with what’s normal, you’ll notice when something’s not right.” Regular self-examination is key, as it means men will hopefully notice any lumps before they’ve had a chance to spread. “Certainly with things like prostate cancer” says Jack, “early detection can not only save your life, it also mitigates the side effects of treatment. These can really change your standard of living, affect your relationship, your mental health – alter the course of your life indefinitely. Early detection gives you more options in terms of decision making, and empowers you to have control over the situation. We don’t just want men to ‘survive’, we want them to have happier, healthier, longer lives.”