As November rolls in, across the world men visit their local barber or pick up their razors and scrape their faces clean in anticipation of a now annual event that has crossed national and cultural lines: Movember. What started as a small group of friends and colleagues in Australia has grown to become an international movement to bring awareness of men’s health issues to the forefront of people’s minds.
The Origins of Movember
Started in 2003, two friends from Australia got together over beers and began a discussion on the desire to bring back mustaches (known as mo’s in Australian slang) and decided that they would combine their wish to bring back a fashion trend with a good cause. As one friend had a mother raising money for breast cancer awareness, they tied it to prostate cancer and men’s health. Using the Internet as their catalyst, they convinced others to sponsor their mustache growth, and had a group of friends all do the same.
From the two young men, to thirty, to millions of participants, the Movember movement has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for prostate and testicular cancer and men’s health research, including bringing the knowledge that three quarters of all suicides are committed by men and that men’s mental health is a serious issue that needs to be talked about, its stigma removed, and its treatment invested in.
How to participate in Movember
Movember has become highly streamlined in the little over a decade since its origins, with ways for both men and women to participate and fund research and support for men’s health and wellness. The idea behind Movember is fun combined with awareness, done with the help of those within professional and social circles. Though the rules for participation exist, individuality and unique choices are encouraged, with the ideas from the organization used as guidelines to allow for creativity for each participant. Their four main recommendations for Movember are:
- Growing a mustache, and have your friends, work, and community sponsor it
- Moving in Movember: set a goal for being active, and gather sponsors
- Hosting a fundraising event, gathering together for a fun night and a good cause
- Directly donating to the Movember campaign, choosing where your money is spent
These events allow both men and women to participate, with even mustache growing being inclusionary by encouraging sponsorship, potential contests that will dictate the color or style of facial hair being grown, and false mustaches being allowed to show solidarity for the cause. The true purpose behind Movember isn’t forgotten, but the activities bring levity to serious issues, removing many of the barriers that are so often in place when talking about cancer and mental illness.
What Makes Movember Different
There are numerous charities and fundraising groups focusing on various ways to bring awareness and money to their causes. Movember sets itself apart. It uses an obvious visual talking point on an individual as a catalyst for conversation. When a man who doesn’t normally wear a mustache begins growing one, or someone who has a beard is suddenly clean-shaven, the people who are familiar with him take notice and begin to ask questions. These questions lead to explanations and an increased awareness that not only is prostate and testicular cancer a serious issue, but that steps are being taken to address, treat, and prevent this slow and silent killer of men.
The expansion by the Movember movement into addressing men’s mental health helps to bring a voice to a cause that is largely kept quiet. With suicide being the leading cause of death for men between the ages of 20 and 39, it is essential that focus be put on removing the stigma of mental illness, its causes, and its impact on the lives of people around the world. It makes something that’s considered shameful a topic of everyday conversation, which is essential to begin to remove the idea that there is something wrong or bad about suffering from depression, anxiety, or the like.
Movember’s Lasting Impact
Movember has shown itself to be more than a gimmick. In twelve years, the awareness of prostate and testicular cancer as a deadly and pervasive disease among men has increased exponentially. The knowledge that men suffer from mental illnesses, including depression, and their suicide rate is unacceptably high is now unable to be shied away from because of the straightforward way that the information is presented to the public by the Movember movement. Their latest statistics speak to the movement and its international impact and effectiveness.
- Participating countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA
- 5,232,625 Mo Bros and Mo Sistas since 2003
- USD $710 million raised since 2003
- 1,200 men’s health projects funded since 2003