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What is Movember and how Does it Help Male Health?

You may have only heard of this around five years ago, but the campaign has been around since 1999. That’s when a group of young Australian men penned the term “Movember” – a portmanteau of “moustache” and “November”. However, at the time it was not about what it is known for today. It was initially to raise money for any charity in the month of November by growing a moustache and asking for sponsorship to do so.

Origins in Male Cancer Awareness

In 2004, another group (reportedly coming up with the idea independently) suggested growing moustaches for men’s issues, specifically for prostate cancer and male mental health. As the scheme grew year on year, the cancer aspect became more prominent and it evolved to include all male cancers.

This group would eventually found the Movember Foundation, the charity now at the centre of the campaign. They’ve gone from strength to strength, especially in the last five years with politicians and celebrities on board to grow moustaches to show their support. Internationally, it is estimated that the charity has raised some $175m US (around £120m) since its foundation, with most of that money raised since 2006 when it hit Europe and North America.

This Year’s Focus on Mental Health

So far, the charity’s main aims have centred on male cancers – testicular and prostate the most obvious. This is still a large part of their campaign and the literature on their website reflects this with harrowing stories of men suffering in silence and young men and women reminiscing on the loss of their fathers, brothers and male friends.

Yet in 2016, the charity is emphasising more resources and more of its campaign on male mental health. Every year, over 75% of suicides are adult men, with middle-aged men being amongst the largest victim group. Men offer suffer in silence based on the perception of society’s expectations to “man up”. Men often struggle to talk about their mental health problems and emotional difficulties. Challenging this and allowing men a space to open up in a manner that is comfortable for them is one of the biggest challenges, along with stigma, for men getting mental health support and treatment.

They are asking that people do one of three things this “Movember”.

  • “Grow Your Mo” – their regular and easiest way to get involved, to grow a moustache and seek sponsorship
  • “Move For Mo” – Naturally, some people cannot grow moustaches – especially women! Your second choice then is to run, swim or walk for Movember and raise sponsorship by setting a physical challenge
  • Host an event – such as a coffee morning. These are popular events for charities such as Macmillan Cancer Care and refugee charities. This cold November, why not meet friends and family for coffee and cake and raise money for men’s health?

What Has It Achieved?

As mentioned above, Movember has raised some £120m pounds globally for men’s health. Much of this has been raised in the last ten years. More than the financial help, it has done several things that we cannot quantify in terms of actual financial success.

  • Awareness of the health difficulties that men face: while nobody is arguing that men’s health is neglected, it could be argued that media lack of attention on male-specific issues means that the general public are unaware of these unique difficulties
  • Started a conversation about mental health provisions for men: Across the country, decision makers are asking questions about why the male suicide rate is so high and what might be done about it in terms of government policy, NHS services and social attitudes
  • Encouraged men to be more aware of their health: It can be argued that men neglect their own health, usually out of the perception that men must “soldier on” and “man up”. Movember has made many men more aware of their potential physical and mental frailties