“Too often men stay quiet about their own mental and physical health issues. They must talk to someone.” – Christian Fuchs

November, also known as ‘Movember’, is a month associated with raising awareness for men’s health. People are growing moustaches left, right and centre in order to promote healthcare for men and raise funds for various associated charities. However, did you know that Men’s Health Awareness Month is actually in June?

So why ‘Movember’?

Well, as all great tales do, this began in 2003, with two blokes sat in an Australian pub chatting about moustaches. Travis Garone and Luke Slattery were discussing the much-needed revival of the moustache, amongst other fashion trends. To bring back the ‘tache, the pair decided to convince around thirty of their friends to grow a ‘mo’ for charity.

The Movember Foundation has provided a much-needed boost in both funds and awareness for men’s healthcare charities. They specifically concentrate on prostate and testicular cancer, both of which are rare, underfunded and difficult to treat, as well as men’s mental health and suicide prevention. As their website states, they are: “the leading charity changing the face of men’s health” and have “funded more than 1200 men’s health projects”. So, a pretty big deal.

“Raising awareness for men’s health is incredibly important. With my close family having been deeply affected by issues that could have been prevented if they’d been checked earlier. I strongly feel that men’s health should be advocated all year round, not just through events such as ‘Movember’.” – Ollie Hall

Maintaining physical and mental health is important for all genders, but there seems to be a silent stigma that remains for men about going to the doctors, talking to people, and addressing their health in the open.

Lara Orriss

Courtesy of Movember via Instagram

Physical and mental health go hand in hand. Phrases like ‘healthy mind, healthy body’ are so common place now they might as well be left unsaid, right? No. Physical health isn’t as highly regarded and frequently practiced as first imagined. A study by The British Journal of Cancer back in 2009 found that in a large study of British adults, women were more likely than men to recall seven out of nine cancer warning signs.

“I’m the type of person who only likes to seek help when I can’t leave the house without collapsing. However, earlier this year I had a scare that has made me revaluate my approach to health. I discovered a sizable lump on my testicle. Luckily, it was benign. But the experience has taught me that when it comes to serious health concerns, you need to take the ‘ball’ by the reigns.” – John Joe Walsh

The NHS’s Health Survey for England in 2016 said that 66% of men were classed as overweight or obese. These offer a brief snapshot at just a few statistics surround men’s physical health, and some of them are quite concerning.

So, what can be done to help? For starters, maybe it is as much a case of mentality towards health as putting it into practice. We have a tendency to think about the body and the mind as separate entities that need different treatments, which is true in many cases. However, taking them both as one system, two halves of the same coin mean that in paying attention to one the other can be equally benefited.

Looking at physical exercise then, simply doing 10 minutes a day can help improve mood, energy levels and mental awareness. According to the Mental Health Foundation’s report on Physical and Mental Health:

‘Physical activity can reduce levels of anxiety in people with mild symptoms and may also be helpful for treating more severe anxiety such as panic attacks or generalised anxiety disorder. Physical activity is available to all, has few costs attached and is an empowering approach that can support self-management.’

Courtesy of Movember via Instagram

In other words, physical health isn’t just about lifting and doing insane amounts of cardio. Just going for a jog or taking a 10-minute break can make all the difference.

Ruth Walbank

Every week, 84 men in the UK take their own lives. This makes suicide the highest cause of death for males under the age of 45. Men right on our doorstep are crushed by unrealistic societal expectations of the ever shape-shifting ideology of what it means to be a man and suffer from issues such as depression and anxiety.

“There is a misconception that women suffer mental and physical health issues like anorexia, and men do not. In fact, anyone can develop these problems and therefore everyone should feel entitled to help; both men and women.” – Anonymous.

These issues often remain unspoken, because boys are traditionally and culturally brought up with the unconscious notion of emasculation if they show too much emotion. Thus, here in the 21st century, many men still feel it’s not on the agenda of a modern man to open up and talk freely about emotion. Though progress is being made, there are still huge advances needed, socially, culturally and psychologically.

“Health in anyone is important, and yet the prevailing stereotype of “strong and silent” men is doing nothing to ease their worries, troubles and health issues. Talking about their problems and keeping track of their health is crucial, and yet too many men remain silent.” – Benjamin O’Rourke.

With the help of many transformative charities, such as The Movember Foundation, we are taking pioneering steps to raise awareness of men’s mental health issues, with November being dedicated to the cause. Other charities such as CALM and Project 84 are both setting out to challenge a vastly ingrained culture which prevents men reaching out when they need to, with CALM’s aim being “to keep men alive by talking”, knowing that due to cultural pressures, it is extremely outwardly difficult to even strike up a conversation about mental health issues.

In 2016, around three quarters of all suicides in Great Britain were male, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. This alone is profound enough to hit home about how serious this issue is. Campaigns such as the #ManDictionary are striving to help men feel comfortable enough to talk about their mental health and thecalmzone.net, who are offering support to men in the UK who are facing any kind of difficulty, along with Movember, which challenges men to unite against the social stereotypes at the root of the problem, by of course growing a moustache throughout the month. That’s why, with the help of these, it’s time to face the issues, and it’s time to talk.

Sarah Goldswain