Health, Lifestyle, Mens Health, Opinion

Movember. The Importance of asking ‘how are you’?

This will be the fifth occasion I have participated in Movember and it gets more important every year. Some might say the growing of a moustache is some gimmicky, hipster tradition to show the world ‘Hey, I’ll grow some ridiculous facial hair and get away with it for charity’. If you do think that, you are grossly missing the point.

I truly grasped the importance of Movember in the country where the movement originates, Australia. Over there hipsters seemingly lurk on every corner and moustaches are far more readily spotted. There does not seem to be a taboo over comical upper facial hair, but there does seem to be a taboo over men’s health.

Whenever I think of an Australian, I think of the men I met while doing my farmwork. Tough men who would work in the field all day and come in to a steak dinner. One of the phrases I often heard (though barely aimed at me) was ‘Take a spoonful of concrete and harden the fuck up’. Down under, readily talking about men’s health was frowned upon. Men would not discuss how they were feeling, they’d get their head down and carry on. This is largely the case in the UK where suffering alone is a tangible concern.

Few people ask that simple question, ‘how are you?’ My boss asks me that every so often as she knows there are times when I am struggling, whether that be with my workload or battling Seasonal Affective Disorder. She will take me a quiet area and we will have a ten minute chat where I can offload. It makes a huge difference to know that there is someone checking in on you. When was the last time you asked someone ‘how are you?’ and got a truthful response? ‘I’m alright ta’, when really you have just seen them walk in looking as if they have the world on their shoulders.

Getting men to talk emotionally is a huge challenge and admittedly there are few men I speak to whom I know I can truly offload to. Ask yourself, if you were having a hard time mentally, who would you admit that to? The statistics make for distressing reading –

. One in eight men have experienced a mental health problem

. The biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK is suicide

Men cannot afford to keep it all in and to borrow one of the foundations slogans, ‘Suicide notes talk too late’. Aside from mental health, there are two physical illnesses which Stand Up To Cancer thankfully highlighted last week; prostate and testicular cancer.

. One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point

. Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in men aged 25-49

And yet, do men talk about this? Not really, which is why the Movember Foundation is so vital. Simply talking about men’s health is one huge step and if that means me growing a moustache to raise awareness then great. Happy to.

 

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Lifestyle

Movember. Final thoughts

That’s it then. Another Movember gone and more funds raised to change the face of men’s health so what have I learnt? Moustaches went out of fashion at some point in the 80’s. In the present day there is something dangerous, even malevolent about them. After the strange ‘is he doing Movember?’ glances during the first two weeks and the ‘he is yknow’ stares for the final two weeks it’s been a strange month. People really find moustaches a little odd.

Apparently I suit a moustache. Several friends and family commented that it didn’t look out of place. My hometown newspaper, The Sentinel, asked for photos on Twitter and mine appeared as the lead photo on the gallery on their website. Nice. Then I received a mention on December 1st to say that I’d won their competition (I have no idea who voted but thanks) and I’ve won a wet shave and a shaving giftset.

The fact is I was constantly aware of its presence like a huge spot and would spend several minutes in thought gently strok─źng it. Come the morning of December 1st I could not wait to shave it off, save for a couple of Charlie Chaplin poses that will never see the light of day.

In the space of a month I can go from looking like I’ve missed my top lip on a morning shave,

Missed my top lip while shaving

Missed my top lip while shaving

To a prickly caterpillar

The Prickly Caterpillar Stage

The Prickly Caterpillar Stage

To Charles Bronson

The Charles Bronson Stage

The Charles Bronson Stage

To a serial killer

The Serial Killer Stage

The Serial Killer Stage

To one of the Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven Stage

The Magnificent Seven Stage

To a full on Handlebar

The Trucker Stage

The Handlebar Stage

To a Trucker

The Trucker Stage

The Trucker Stage

To a South American despot

The South American Despot

The South American Despot

If you would still like to donate then feel free at uk.movember.com/mospace/3678097

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