You may have noticed that during the month of November normally clean shaven men start losing their fresh-faced look and start cultivating hairy growths of various styles on their upper lips!
That’s because November is also known as Movember. However, as Mental Health First Aid instructor, Andy Elwood, explains to Practice Plan Area Manager, Suki Singh, Movember’s not just about growing moustaches.
SS: As we’re talking about Movember, Andy, can you give us a little bit of background about it, please? What is it all about? How did it start, and your experiences of it?
AE: Although our first thought when we think of Movember is growing moustaches, it’s about more than that.
It all started almost 20 years ago, now. In Australia in 2003, two mates gathered together 30 blokes and, for a bit of fun they started growing a moustache in November to tie in with one of their mothers, who was taking part in breast cancer awareness month. Since then, no pun intended, it’s grown and grown. There’ve been over 6 million people men and women involved. Mo bros and Mo sisters, as we call them.
We’re all about having a bit of fun as we raise awareness of and raise money for men’s physical and mental health. So, for normally bearded people like me, my beard comes off last day of October. My wife absolutely hates November. She doesn’t mind the beard, but she doesn’t like the moustache. And I grow back a moustache in a different shape each year through November to help start conversations and to raise some money for men’s health.
We encourage people to take part and have some fun. It doesn’t matter if you can grow a fantastic moustache or if you end up with just a little bit of fluff by the end of the month, though. They can all be conversation starters and a way to talk about men’s health.
SS: What sort of aspects of men’s health are you hoping to raise awareness of?
AE: We focus mainly on three themes. One is testicular cancer. There’s a 95% survival rate for that when we get an early intervention. So, starting that conversation, sharing good knowledge and information is what it’s all about. To get people on that survival journey. Younger men are more at risk from testicular cancer. Men should do a regular check on their testicles to note any changes (in a warm shower is a great place to check). Note that most lumps are NOT cancer, but it’s best to get them checked out by your GP.
Second is prostate cancer. We still have a lot more work to do on getting the message out there about prostate cancer. Almost 11 million men live with prostate cancer around the world. Prostate cancer is more of a thing that affects men my age, a bit more mature! Men should speak to their doctor when they are 50 for a check or at 45 if you are black or have familial history of prostate cancer.
And then the third focus is where we consider mental health and is about suicide prevention. Every hour, 60 men around the world end their life by suicide, so that’s one a minute. And the figures in the UK tie in with that. Which is shocking. So, our aim is by 2030 to have a 25% reduction in premature deaths for men. Men die five years earlier than women on average.
SS: I didn’t know that. That’s a bit worrying
AE: Yes, it was a bit of a shocker for me, too. But there are loads of good things we can do to keep ourselves well, and one of the best things is to connect with other people. Have conversations with people. Share your good news, talk about the things that are difficult. Just build those connections and relationships with other people. These are the cornerstones of your life and will be there with you through good times and the bad.
As I said, it isn’t just about growing moustaches as many of us get involved with our fundraising and spreading the good word around by taking on a physical challenge. You don’t have to, but that’s good for our physical and our mental health, too.
SS: So, it’s aimed at not just only men, we want to get women involved and the community in general, by the sounds of it.
AE: Absolutely. We have a lot of female ambassadors now; we call them Mo sisters. They often get involved because they have a personal connection. They may have lost a man in their life to suicide. Or they have a father with prostate cancer. Maybe they have a brother, a partner, a son who has come through testicular cancer. We have all sorts of women getting involved and supporting us. As my work has a male focus in general, I find a lot of women become interested in it because there are men in their life they care about and they want to know how to help them. Whether it’s with their physical health or their mental health.
So, as far as Movember is concerned, everyone is welcome. We just want to help men to look after their own mental and physical health and if people want to support us, that’s great.
Get more information or get involved by visiting https://uk.movember.com
Donate to Andy’s fundraising page at https://uk.movember.com/mospace/14295747