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Why we’re doing Movember

* Trigger warning – suicide is mentioned frequently throughout this post * 

Why is Movember important? 

On average, men die 5 years earlier than women. 

Sadly, this is for largely preventable reasons. 

As Movember themselves has said: “a growing number of men – around 10.8M globally – are facing life with a prostate cancer diagnosis. Globally, testicular cancer is the most common cancer among young men. And across the world, one man dies by suicide every minute of every day, with males accounting for 75% of all suicides.”

In the UK alone, suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45.

And so Movember’s mission is to:

  • Give men the facts
  • Change behaviour for the better
  • Create services that work for men
  • Unite the brightest minds
  • Listen to the community and advocate for men.

This month, we’re not only supporting the work that Movember do, but we’re actively taking part ourselves.

Below we’ve compiled a short collection of stories from the Sanctus team on why & how they’re getting involved with Movember.

We have stories from both men and women with a deeper, more personal reason, we have stories from people who are just doing it because they care, and also a story from a team member who wants to support Movember but doesn’t want to shave off his facial hair for his own reasons related to mental health.

We felt each and every story was important, highlighting the different ways that both men and women can get involved in the conversation around men’s health. 

We’ve also included a list of past Sanctus content on all things men and mental health. 

Our stories & reasons for doing Movember

George Bell – growing a tache

So, along with a couple of the other Sanctus team members, I’m going “Mo Bro” this year and shaving off one of my most prized assets. 

I haven’t seen my own chin in about six years so that’s been a bit of a shock. Still, everyone keeps telling me it’s good to shave it all off once in a while and give the skin a bit of a breather, but I feel like they’re just saying that to reassure me after seeing the clear pained expressions on my face. 

So why did I get involved this year? 

Two of the main causes that Movember represents sits incredibly close to my heart.

They started as a charity focused on cancer in men, and I’ve been personally impacted by cancer in a few ways – knowing a few people who have passed away from it, and others who have suffered or been diagnosed but survived.

We’ve likely all got a story that involves cancer, or we at least know someone who does.

And then in more recent years they’ve started to focus on the male suicide rate, which is far, far too high in this country.

It’s still the biggest killer of men in the UK, so statistically speaking, if you’re a man in the UK, the thing most likely to kill you is yourself.

I always feel a stab in my gut when I read that sentence.

And even outside of the UK, globally one man dies from suicide every one minute. It’s far, far too high.

I’ve had my own journey with suicide, struggling with thoughts for somewhere between 6-8 months – I don’t really remember as the period is a little hazy. But it was bad.

The whole “be a man” notion played into my journey, as it plays into the journeys of many others. This image that society has projected onto us of men needing to be big and strong. Ripped six packs. Brooding glares. Breadwinners…it’s dangerous. 

Too many men believe that it’s “weak to speak”. 

Many of us have been taught that and taught that expressing emotion is wrong. Or at least not the “done” thing to do. 

But talking saved my life, and I know that it’s saved the life of others. 

So that’s why I’ve shaved off my beard for the month. 

In the words of England Rugby star Jonny May, “the worst moustaches start the best conversations”.

And it could just be a conversation that saves a life. 

James Routledge – growing a tache

There aren’t many topics as close to my heart as mental health in men, or health in men in general. 

That’s why this month I’ve lobbed off my beard and I’ll be growing a moustache in solidarity with the other “Mo Bros”, also raising awareness for men’s health. 

Men’s health remains a particular aspect of mental health that I find awkward to talk openly about. 

I’ve found it very easy over the last 5 years talking about mental health and challenging us all to talk about our mental health more openly, in the workplace and beyond. 

When I find myself lasering in on mental health in men I find myself less comfortable articulating myself and find I seem to get less of a response too. 

Singling out men does feel more pointed than I might usually be in writing about mental health. 

Yet to not acknowledge the uniquenesses around mental health for men is really missing out on a lot of context and if we don’t talk specifically about men, then we’re ignoring some of the glaring facts about men’s mental health. 

Particularly the fact that more men die by taking their own life when they’re under the age of 45, than any other condition. 

How can’t we talk specifically about that?

The typical masculine approach to mental health, the “it’ll be fine” or “don’t be a girl” narrative often applies to men’s approach to physical health too, where the consequences are just as dangerous. 

Movember initially began as a charity focusing on prostate and testicular cancer, breaking down the taboo for men to check their genitals for lumps and not be afraid to go to the doctor to get something checked out. 

The generational approach to men’s health often described as toxic masculinity is going to take a while to change, there’s centuries of legacy norms for how men should be, passed down from great grandfathers who went off to war, that’s just one of the narratives around men we often don’t consider. 

I hope we can change the narrative around men and masculinity in my lifetime. I don’t want to keep hearing the same old lines about how men don’t talk, about how men are stubborn and won’t change.

I don’t want the word most associated with masculinity to be toxic. It feels apt to be writing and thinking about this as we remember those that died in World War 1 and 2, mostly men at war. There are more links between the Poppy appeal and Movember, than we might initially think.

Yeah being a man in the UK does come with some negative stereotypes attached, yet let’s not forget the friendship, camaraderie, laughter and love we all experience as men, with other men too. 

One moustache, one conversation at a time, let’s change the conversation for men around health and mental health. 

Liam Bedford – supporting but not shaving

Supporting Movember is something that I’m fully behind. Whether that’s from a mental health perspective which aligns to the work I’m doing everyday, or to a Cancer perspective which is also something that has affected my family and life (like most families).

Every year I see brave people supporting the cause by growing a moustache, and every single year it’s something I would love to get involved with. But funnily enough, this focus on appearance is something that has affected my own mental health and my own sense of what ‘being a man’ is like.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of other ways for both males or females to support Movember, and growing a daft tache doesn’t have to be the only way to get involved; you can choose to not shave any hair on your body for the month, or you can walk 60km instead to represent the 60 men who die to suicide every hour. So there are alternatives for getting involved.

I would love to be the person who just says f*ck it, shaves off my facial hair like many do, raise a load of money and have smiles all round.

But I’ve struggled with appearance over the years though, and one that I’ve always come back to is my facial hair.

I’ve never really been a ‘hairy’ person, I remember struggling at school because I was a late bloomer and didn’t have underarm hair until I was 17. And I was unable to grow any sort of facial hair until the age of 22, and it was very thin then.

Nowadays I’ve managed to just about combat the insecurity of hair, I can grow a thin little beard, and I get it shaped up every so often to make myself feel better about it.

But in my head I think I’ve always had this perspective of what being a ‘man’ is. From a mental point-of-view, my relationship with that statement is better than it has ever been. I know now that men don’t have to be shut out, they don’t have to be emotionless, and the work I’ve done on mental health has helped me realise this, I can be a ‘strong’, ‘tough’ man and I can still cry. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

But from a physical point-of-view it’s something I still struggle with. ‘Hair’, ‘muscles’, ‘height’…all of these are things that I associate with being a ‘man’s man’, and whether it’s true or not, it’s always been there for me.

When asked if I wanted to do Movember with some of the Sanctus team, I realised that it wouldn’t be other people looking at me, or feeling like I look silly or anything like that, but more so my own insecurities would get in the way, it would ruin my month, it would make my own mental health worse.

So why am I being featured on a blog that’s all about supporting Movember? I guess it’s good to hear the voice from the perspective of people who are too nervous to get involved, the perspective of someone who really wants to partake, but can’t do it.

This month I’ll be supporting the people on my team in other ways, donating, sharing and shouting about the brave people on my team, but this year I’m not quite brave enough, and I think that’s ok to say out loud.

If a single person resonates with this, and it inspires them to get involved in other ways this month, then it has been worth typing down.

Zimo Holdijk – doing No Shave November

I’m participating to be an ally in raising awareness for men’s health issues. It’s easy to avoid conversations about poor physical and mental health. Doing this gives me (and others) a funny/easy icebreaker into the topic and removes the stigma around it!

Marina Carbone – championing those on the team taking part

Men’s health, both physical and mental, is something that is incredibly important to me after watching my dad battle various health challenges. 

On the physical side, he’s suffered multiple bouts of prostate cancer, heart disease & now dementia. And on the mental health side, he’s had chronic depression and been plagued with stress and anxiety. A lot of his issues have been compounded by an inherited & culturally prevalent ideal of masculinity. One that’s cloaked in pride and bubbling with shame. One where vulnerability & ill-health equals weakness.

These unhealthy ideals have prevented him from reaching out for physical & psychological help. And I’ve seen first hand how damaging that has been. That’s why I’m supporting the men in our team, and beyond, this Movember.

Tash Bristowe – championing those on the team taking part

I don’t have a direct personal reason for wanting to get involved in Movember that some of the rest of the team may have, but it’s still a cause I care about. 

I want to get involved with Movember to show my support to those who are taking part. To show my support to those that have suffered and to show my support to those that are suffering with their health. To help those that may have recovered to inform the men out there that aren’t aware or don’t want to talk.

I recently did a walking challenge for The Sanctus Foundation so I didn’t want to do another one and I don’t fancy growing ma facial hair tbh … but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to get involved in some way or another and that is really to stand with all the glorious men out there and raise awareness for men’s health issues ultimately be a part of a community that is working together to help save a life.

Sanctus content on men’s mental health

A selection of various pieces of content that we’ve compiled on men and mental health.

How to talk to the men in your life about their mental health

Sanctus Head Coach, Agnieszka Walczuk, has written a piece aimed at everyone, man or woman, highlighting the signs to look out for that the men in your life may be struggling, and how you can open up the conversation with them. 

Three Guys Talk About Suicide 

George Bell sat down with David Ferns, from Sanctus Partners Reward Gateway, as well as Clark Stevens, to talk honestly and openly about their experiences with suicidal thoughts

Masculinity, Sexuality and Mental Health

We were joined by Jonny Benjamin MBE, the mental health campaigner who created the documentary Stranger on a Bridge, to discuss all things masculinity, sexuality and, of course, mental health. Listen here

Support us

We’re actively taking part in raising money for Movember this month, and if you fancy throwing us any donation money, it would be greatly appreciated 🙂

Our fundraising page is here.