Already three quarters through the month, Shay Galon reports on how social media allows Movember to spearhead the change in perceptions of masculinity for the better.
Movember is urging the public to check in on a mate and to open the conversation about mental and physical health. It encourages men to speak openly about anything that isn’t right and to check their body or go get checked professionally. The iconic “manly” moustache aims to promote the idea that being a man truly means to be comfortable opening up about one’s mental and physical health.
The leading charity recently released figures that show approximately 60% of men rarely admit or even speak about issues regarding their mental health. The figures also tragically reveal that in 2021 a man dies by suicide every minute around the world. On top of that, the statistics show that unchecked prostate cancer rates are to double over the next 15 years. Internationally, testicular cancer is the most common cancer among men aged 15 – 39 years of age.
“Movember is the leading charity dedicated to changing the face of men’s health on a global scale. We have one goal: to stop men dying too young,” Movember spokesperson wrote to The City.
“Since the Pandemic began, we have all seen the power that social media has on allowing us to feel connected to one another even when we are far apart. Social media is a great way for our MoBros and Sisters to come together as a community.”
A Hairy Tale
Two mates from Melbourne, Australia, Travis Garone and Luke Slattery, were having a few pints at the Gypsy Bar when they joked about bringing the trend of having a moustache back into fashion. The pair then talked some of their friends into growing a Mo.
Inspired by a friend’s mother who was fundraising for breast cancer, the two friends decided to base the campaign around men’s health and prostate cancer. They designed the rules of Movember, along with the first logo and began their journey. Initially charging ten dollars per person growing a Mo, they sent an email titled “Are you man enough to be my man?” which immediately received responses from 30 guys willing to participate in the challenge.
In 2004, Adam Garone took Movember to the next level and registered it as a company and created a website.
After researching men’s health issues, the Mo Bros agreed to formally support prostate cancer as their cause. Globally speaking, the charity donated all proceeds from their first year to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA). The four boys collaborated with the PCFA who became the first official men’s health partner in 2005. That year, 9,315 Mo Bros in Australia raised AUD 1.2 million for the PCFA.
Fast-forward a year later, the Movember Foundation became an official Australian Charity.
Furthering their research, they discovered that depression was a significant issue in men’s health in Australia which brought their second partner, the national depression and anxiety initiative, to join.
The same year, the foundation expanded to New Zealand in partnership with The Prostate Cancer Foundation of NZ. Campaigns in the UK and Spain were also successful. This enthusiasm allowed the co-founders to grow internationally which generated enormous awareness of men’s health issues.
Social media is by far the most successful platform for men and women to vocalise their Movember stories and to raise awareness about mental and physical health. The hashtag #Movember has been used across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram by those who participate each year.
Connections with ‘like-minded people‘
Ross Galvin, Movember ambassador, spoke to @humansofdub about his mental health struggles over the past year and how he stumbled upon a wave of like-minded people who were undergoing the same journey. Once the pandemic hit in 2020, Galvin felt the ground shake from underneath him as he moved back into his childhood home with no job and the repetition of doing absolutely nothing dragging through each day.
“That was when I got sick. I couldn’t eat or sleep for weeks and in a matter of days I lost 10kg… I had reached a really low point and was thinking very dark thoughts, unsure how things would ever improve.”
Growing up in Howth, he decided to swim every day for 30 days in November to raise awareness for men’s mental health and posted about it on his Instagram. As the days progressed, Galvin openly admitted that he led on as if this act was for others, “but internally, I was really doing it for myself,” in the hopes of turning his life around. In time, a community of kind, positive, “like-minded” sea swimmers began to emerge, all supporting the same cause. At the end of the month, he raised nearly €3300.
One year later, Movember Ireland invited Galvin to be an ambassador to promote positive mental health among men and women. His daily Instagram posts about his sea swims continue on throughout this month with a time and a location encouraging others to join along.
Kevin Sharkey is a returning participant of Movember, also advocating the charity’s message about prostate cancer awareness within men.
Sharkey understands that there is still a stigma attached with men discussing their mental and physical health which Movember aims to change. The organisation allows men to use social media as a platform to discuss their own struggles and to get rid of the taboo that is so prominent in society. He continues to say that with a bit of online investigation, someone silently battling their own thoughts, “can find people who have had the same or similar issues and hopefully can find help and realise that they are not alone.”
“Being a ‘man’s man’ should mean something different in this day and age. We need to make it mean something different, like being a man’s man means you are there for friends, open and honest about your feelings and health.”
The Movember spokesperson also mentions that the supposed ‘masculine’ traits like strength, resilience and resourcefulness are displayed by men and women. However, those who subscribe to the stereotypes of masculinity are typically in danger of having poor mental health.
“Previous research has shown that men who subscribe to the traditional stereotypes of masculinity –the ‘toughen up’ mentality -are at higher risk of poor mental health and suicide. Men aren’t always comfortable talking about what’s going on in their heads. If they are struggling in silence and don’t ask for help until it’s too late, then that is a serious problem.”
“One of the ways Movember is trying to tackle this issue is to get men to understand what good mental health looks like, challenge outdated stereotypes about what it means to be a man and make it okay for them to open up and get the support they need.”
Since 2003, the organisation has funded more than 1,250 innovative men’s health projects across three areas: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. The Mo Community continues to grow while also raising awareness across Ireland.