Let’s reflect on the month of November. The annual Movember campaign has sparked everyone into conversation about men’s health. Movember is the leading global organisation committed to changing the face of men’s health, with a large focus on mental wellbeing. They stand for ‘tackling prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.’ In 2019 this movement has been bigger than ever. Social media is now saturated with mental health posts, focusing on tackling toxic masculinity and the prevalence of male suicide. We have loved watching our friends and family raising money by growing those terrible moustaches, rocking that new-bald-look, and running/walking 60km, but we must take a moment to contemplate the cause. The Movember website outlines its aim clearly: ‘We’re working towards a world where men take action to be mentally well, and are supported by those around them.’
This is a necessary movement as it subverts the harmful gender stereotypes that prevent men from expressing themselves.
Have you heard a variation of the following statements in the workplace and/or wider society?
Man up. Men should be strong, not emotional. Crying shows weakness- only women cry. Men express themselves through anger and aggression. Men are strong. Men have bravado and confidence. Get on with it. Grow up. Men are breadwinners. Men are the head of the house. Girl’s don’t fancy men who cry. Men don't lose. Men don't depend on anyone. Men must suffer pain in silence.
Men hear these expressions frequently in day-to-day life. Gender expectations are everywhere. Toxic masculinity is an extremely important issue that we need to talk about to dismantle. Movember gets men to talk about their emotions and share their struggles- something traditionally ‘girly.’ They work towards removing the harmful gender expectations that stop men from talking about mental health.
One of Movember’s main goals is that ‘by ‘2030 we’ll reduce the rate of male suicides by 25%.’ On their website they state: ‘The issue of suicide is incredibly complex. But we know this: improving overall mental health and helping men establish better social connections can reduce the risk of suicide. And so that’s our mission. To get there, we’re uniting experts, funding bold new approaches and embracing fresh perspectives.’
Movember interviewed a number of men who have struggled with mental health issues. One example is Graeme.
Graeme struggled with depression: ‘an illness that cost me my marriage, my career and very nearly my life…it doesn’t get much more serious than that.” He talks about how having mental illness is seen as directly opposed to being successful in a career: ‘many think it would never affect apparently successful people...truth is, depression doesn’t discriminate.” Many think that if someone is doing well at work or has a high-powered career then they must be happy. This is false. Graeme highlights how important it is to discuss mental wellbeing in the workplace, for both men and women.
Graeme was told to ‘toughen up’ and ‘get on with life,’ largely because he is a man, but also because he is an adult human being. We all have been told to ‘toughen up’ in our lives, and it is never helpful. Instead of toughening up we need to be breaking down these walls together. By sharing our stories we realise that we are not alone.
The 5 top tips outlined for men on the Movember website are:
Spend time with people who make you feel good.
Know the numbers. At 50, talk to your doctor about prostate cancer and whether it’s right for you to have a PSA test. If you are black or have a father or brother with prostate cancer, you should be having this conversation at 45. Know your numbers, know your risk, talk to your doctor.
Know thy nuts. Simple. Get to know what’s normal for your testicles. Give them a check regularly and go to the doctor if something doesn’t feel right.
Move, more. Add more activity to your day. Do more of what makes you feel good.
Take a walking meeting
Park further away from the station
Get off the bus a stop or two earlier
Instead of the lift, take the stairs
Cycle to work instead of driving
Visit their website for more helpful tips and stories of men’s mental health.
Also visit their YouTube channel. There are many powerful videos that advocate speaking up about mental wellbeing. This is just one of many...
By Grace Proctor, Content Editor.