By Nick Krewen
Movember has expanded its horizons.
Once known strictly as a program to promote prostate cancer screening for men – most notably by engaging men into growing moustaches to raise funds and awareness in the month of November, hence the name “Movember” – the Australian-founded non-profit has broadened its mandate into the gender-specific areas of testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention in terms of helping men leading healthier lives.
Now in its 16th year with a presence in 20 countries and over $1.02 billion raised by nearly 322,000 participants known as Mo Bros and Mo Sistas, Movember has set an ambitious objective for its mental health and suicide prevention initiative.
“We’re working towards a global target in our key markets of a 25% reduction in suicide by 2030,” Brendan Maher, Global Director of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, told The Men’s List during a recent phone interview.
He admits it’s going to take a team effort.
“It’s not something that we’re going to achieve alone, but simply something we’re committed to in terms of focus to try and move the needle on one of the biggest challenges of our time.”
Maher, whose territorial responsibility includes Canada, the U.K., the U.S., Australia, Ireland and New Zealand and covers intervention and prevention, programmatic and funding efforts,
says suicide is the leading cause of death for men aged 15-29 and over the age of 44 – and the programs that Movember employ and fund emphasize communication through community and connectivity.
“There’s a significant focus on strengthening informal community support and investing in programs that stress social connection and having conversations with men and boys about things that matter,” says Maher.
“Things like how to spot signs of someone who may not be doing ok – and creating environments that place men and boys in get-togethers so they can maintain their social connections.
“Men are not good in keeping that social scaffolding in place.”
It’s no secret that men often have difficulty expressing their feelings.
“We talk a lot about that masculinity – guys not willing to be vulnerable and men wanting to be stoic and bulletproof, “Maher admits.
“There’s a lack of willingness to seek help and put one’s hand up if we fall on hard times.”
Maher says it’s even tougher for men who live in regional and remote communities.
“In those communities that are perhaps a little more tight-knit, where everyone knows everyone else’s business, there is a tendency to keep things more to yourself,” he explains.
“It’s harder to access help when you get to a stage where you’re ready to seek some professional guidance, challenged by fewer services and a lack of access to those services.”
But Movember offers outreach programs that promote fellowship, like the Social Innovators Challenge.
“It’s one of the key programs that Movember invests in and it involves 12 or 13 programs across Australia, the UK and Canada.
“It’s effectively creating opportunities for men to build positive relationships and increase levels of social connection. It creates opportunities for men to get together and increase feelings of belonging – particularly for those who run a risk of becoming socially isolated – and it includes adverse population groups like new fathers, unemployed men, divorced men and men of low social economic status.
“In Canada, we also have a significant program involving indigenous people: we call it our land-based program, which is about connection to land.
“There’s also a program which encourages young men in the high Arctic to reconnect to traditional activities like hunting;
measuring in communities where there has been an over-representation of young men dying by suicide. Creating an opportunity for these young men to be mentored and to reconnect to some of their traditions has been really, really successful.”
Some other socially active initiatives include Australia’s “Waves of Wellness,” which is surf-focused.
“A bunch of guys get together on the beach and talk about a few of the things that might be on their mind before they surf,” says Maher.
“In the United Kingdom, one of our funded programs is The Men’s Pie Club – and it’s exactly what the title says: a bunch of guys from different backgrounds getting together and making pies. These are guys who are lonely or who are a little bit disconnected and have an opportunity to get together around food, to talk, stay connected and have a place to go.”
Maher notes that these Movember-sponsored programs have received great feedback from its participants.
“We’re finding that, anecdotally, there are many people involved in these types of programs that will tell you that it’s a significant part of their wellbeing in their life.
“It’s something for them to look forward to with people they can stay connected with.”
Movember funds 1250-plus projects in 20 countries and in 2018 raised $98.6 million for its core mandates, with Canada accounting for $18.1 million. According to its website, Movember contributes 72.3% of all funds raised to men’s health projects.
“We run a lean organization,” says Maher and figures that Movember’s reach extends to “millions and millions in terms of impact.”
“At the intervention and prevention level, you’re looking yourself through a long lens, so we’re interested in changing and influencing over a longer period of time,” he says. “Everyone who is sporting a mo, you can just scratch the surface and start a conversation It’s always about mental health but it could be about any of our core subject areas.”
Maher also states that Movember and its partners can only do so much, and it sometimes sees itself as a vehicle of transition to professional counseling for those it helps.
“As an organization, we thoroughly encourage people to seek professional help,” Maher says. “We absolutely promote the role of traditional support in help-seeking. There’s only so much you can do on an informal community care level. Then it’s really about pointing someone towards an appropriate level of care to engage and manage the situation.”
For further information or to donate to Movember, please visit ca.movember.com.