It’s that time of the year when the men in your life might choose to take a break from shaving their stubble, or they’re daring to shave their beards, their goatees, or their mutton chops in favour of a moustache. That’s right, Movember time is upon us.
Movember is so much more than seeing an influx of people with moustaches. Movember has become an annual tradition, around the world, for people showing their support for all forms of men’s health. The event shines a spotlight on men’s mental health and suicide prevention, as well as prostate and testicular cancer. Their tagline is “we’re taking them all on,” and that’s just what they’re doing.
As an event, Movember has grown with each passing year. It all began in 2003 in Melbourne, Australia with simple a conversation between two friends (Travis Garone and Luke Slattery). They got together at their local bar, and they got talking about recurring fashion trends. They noticed that the moustache, a common thing for a number of years, had faded into obscurity. Inspired by a friend’s mum, who was raising funds for charity, the guys thought that they could do something similar for causes aimed at men. The idea was to encourage guys to grow a moustache and donate money to charity. The following year, Movember became a registered company, and the cause has continued to grow.
Jumping to 2022. Movember has become a truly international event. Fundraising happens in over 20 countries, roughly 6,886,128 million people have been involved, and the cause has funded over 12,500 health projects aimed at men and boys. Projects have furthered our understanding of how prostate cancer works. Studies in Canada, Australia and the UK have explored ways of restoring and strengthening the social connections of men, particularly those at risk of becoming socially isolated. Movember has also launched Family Man, an online parenting programme designed with dads in mind, to improve their parenting confidence and knowledge.
Everything that Movember has contributed to and achieved has really highlighted the power that one conversation can have. One conversation led to a global movement that is changing lives, forever. And you too could have a conversation that makes a difference to one of the men in your life - someone who might be having a tough time.
Have you noticed that one of your mates is acting differently? Perhaps talking to him about it could be helpful. I know what you might be thinking: “I wouldn’t know where to start” or “what do I even say to him?” It can feel hard to have conversations like this. Given their experience with conversations, the Movember website offers some useful advice with this, and it all starts with ALEC. Ask. Listen. Encourage action. Check-in.
Maybe start by showing that you’ve noticed something is different. Has he been spending more time at the bar, turning up late to things, or even avoiding events. “Hey, how are things? You’ve not been your usual self lately. How are you?” On the first try, people might say that they’re fine when they’re really not. Trust yourself, and maybe ask him again.
Be really present for him and offer him your undivided attention. Take the pressure off yourself. You don’t have to diagnose the problem, find solutions, or even advise him. Just let him know you’re there. You’re all ears, judgement-free and maybe even growing a moustache.
Follow-up questions can be helpful, and they show that you’re really listening. “That sounds really tough! How long have you felt like this?”
3. Encourage action
Maybe you could help him to focus on some small changes or actions that can help to improve things. What’s his sleep like? How about his exercise and eating habits? Find out about things he’s done before that helped.
It can help to lighten the load. You could suggest that he talk to other people that he trusts about how he’s doing. Not only could this help him, but it might give you some relief to know he’s sharing things. If he’s been feeling low for more than a couple weeks, it might be a good idea if he had a chat with his GP.
Being a good mate is an ongoing thing. Try suggesting that you both have catch up soon – in-person if possible. If that’s not an option, plan a time for a call or flick him a message. Arranging a plan to contact him again can really show that he’s someone you care about. Also, by seeing him again you’ll be able to check out if he’s doing better.
Using ALEC as a guide is a good starting point for a conversation. If you feel that you need more guidance on having that conversation, check out the Movember website. They go into more detail on the ALEC skills and there’s even an interactive tool to practice. If you want to get involved with Movember, you can find more details on their website. Let’s keep the conversation going!