Movember is an event, celebrated in the month of November, supporting and raising awareness for men’s mental health, suicide, and health concerns like prostrate and testicular cancer.
It is marked special by several men growing their moustaches and beard during this month. Therefore, it is also referred to as ‘no shave November’. This month is solely dedicated to supporting and encouraging men to openly discuss the struggles and challenges they face.
To make it possible for men to speak up and let their concerns be known, it is important for us to give them a safe and unbiased platform. There is a need for an understanding and helpful society, support groups dedicated to men, and a responsive government.
According to a report by Samaritans, ‘Males are more likely to die by suicide in England than females’.
In 2021, the male suicide rate was 15.8 percent per 100,000.
Movember is all about raising awareness about men’s mental health, testicular and prostrate cancer, and male suicide.
To give all the men the right help and structure for discussing their problems and challenges, we need to open our minds and be receptive. Due to a fear of judgement, men face trouble speaking up about their issues. By giving them an open space to talk we can make things better for them and lower the chances of mental health problems, health problems, and general sadness or depression.
How to give support?
1. Be a good listener
If we listen to someone carefully and give them our attention, we can make them feel heard and cared for in no time. It is only about focussing and being understanding. Listening can also happen in subtle forms. Even if your father, brother, friend, or husband is not talking to you about what is bothering them, but you know that they are distressed, then it is time to talk.
2. Get rid of any generalised definition of ‘masculinity’
We all have heard the phrase ‘men don’t cry’. The inherent problem with this statement is that it strips men of the ability to express themselves. It makes them feel like crying out loud, being emotional, expressing their feelings, talking about their challenges, makes them a weaker person or ‘less of a man’. However, it is important to remember that we all are humans with emotions which require some sort of expression else they can make us feel stifled. As a society, we need to collectively get rid of such facile and biassed definitions of masculinity.
Financial debt, pressure of work and bills, can be daunting for men and cause them to have depression and feel immense pressure. As men, you do not have to do it all and be the only support for a family. You could ask your partner or family members to contribute to the family. Moreover, when feeling pressured, talking out may help find a way out and assuage some of the stress.
3. Create community-based programmes for men
Having a community or group which caters to the challenges one can face as a man, should be formed, and run enthusiastically. These services should be available and advertised or talked about throughout the year and not for just a month. Having a time and place where men can meet up to discuss their predicament is an effective and safe way to help them open and speak up.
Charities like Movember are doing some good work towards the same cause.
You can also find some insight into men’s mental health in our previously written piece Men’s mental health journey, lifelong challenges.
How can men get support for themselves?
1. Visit a professional doctor as per the need
When you feel that something is out of order or whack, just get an appointment and see a doctor. This could be regarding your mental health or physical health or both.
Signs of a mental health problem that should not be ignored could be
· Feeling constantly sad or low
· Brain fogging and confusion
· Avoiding social interaction for long periods of time
· Losing interest in things you once enjoyed
· Low libido or sex drive
· Poor sleeping patterns
· Lack of appetite
· Overdosing on alcohol or intoxicating substances
· Suicidal thoughts
· Inability to perform at work
· Delusions or hallucinations
When you feel a combination of these symptoms affecting you, then it is probably best to seek help timely.
2. Get regular screenings for cancer prevention
It is said that ‘when you are 50, you need to have a conversation with your doctor about PSA testing, if you are black do it at 45, if you have a family history do it at 45’.
Cancer prevention is better than cancer treatment. Your risk of developing cancer increases if you have a family history, so if your father had it, chances are you may develop it too. Nothing is certain but getting checked and tested is certainly the wisest thing to do. Since prostate and testicular cancer are restricted to men, it is essential for them to be aware of their body and the changes they experience and talk to other men who have been through the same problem. Joining groups for cancer support, staying aware, and regular visits to the doctors are effective ways for early detection and prevention.
3. Break any social definition of ‘masculinity’
Try not to be influenced or pressured by a generalised definition of masculinity. You need to understand that you, as a man, are human and have the right to speak up, get help, ask for support, feel sad or down, not be the leader always, take a break. None of these feelings disempower you or make you less of a man. Learn to break unhealthy standards of masculinity which put your mental health under pressure.
4. Share responsibilities with others
You always don’t have to do everything on your own. There is no shame or harm in asking for help. You can ask your partner or sister or children to help you out with things. This could be paying bills, a work-related thing, driving, supporting you in a hard time, listening to your problems, discussing finances with you. Unlearning the toxic behaviour of taking all the responsibilities on yourself, not seeking help, crying alone, not discussing financial challenges, is the only way to move towards a future where men and women share equal respect and responsibilities. Calling out people when they make you feel ashamed of your feelings and emotions is also something you can do to dash unhealthy expectations and social standards for men.