Movember 2022

Since 2003 Aussie men have been growing mows or supporting the men who do. The purpose: raising money for Movember. The brainchild was developed in a good old Aussie pub in 1999. Eighty men were growing moustaches in Adelaide and were raising awareness for some male issues. I wonder if either of those two groups ever thought it would grow to be supported in over 20 countries. They have raised over $837 million and have 6,758,699 members. What an achievement!

What is Movember?

Men’s issues are rarely spoken of. Yes, we are improving. We still have a long way to go. Movember is a movement to open the doors of conversation around prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men’s mental health.

Men have the highest rate of suicide in the country. The Australian Bureau of Statics (ABS) is yet to release its 2021-2022 data. However, in 2020, 3139 lives were lost to suicide, of which 2384 were men with a median age of 43.6 years (you can read the report here). This equates to a man every minute worldwide.

Why are we not talking about men’s mental health?

Overall, mental health distress in Australia is increasing, and honestly, I do not see a decline any time soon. We know lockdowns and isolation have increased mental health issues in Australia. You do not need statistics to tell you this, you only need to talk to anyone on the street or look at the data released by Lifeline earlier in the year. You can listen to my views about Australia’s mental health system here, it was posted to Facebook in Aug 2021.

Consequently, the ABS data on mental health was last released in 2018 (you can find the data here). We know women experience higher levels of mental health distress, however, you do need to ask the question –

Are men honest in answering their survey questions, and are they seeking help?

Why do we need to ask if men are being honest?

A study by Benita Chatmon in 2020 revealed in America; men were four times more likely to die by suicide than women. Death by alcohol was at a rate of 62,000 men compared to 26,000 women. Men are more likely to misuse drugs two to three times more than women (study here). Are we still to believe the mental health statistics? I, for one, do not, and all the studies I have read on the topic over many years all state the same results.

You would think in 2022, our boys and men would be released from the stigma society has placed on them. They haven’t. The men I see in my counselling room also share with me that we haven’t.

Stigma? What is this about?

Firstly, which definition of ‘stigma’ would you like to go with? The Cambridge Dictionary defines stigma as

  • a strong lack of respect for a person or a group of people or a bad opinion of them because they have done something society does not approve of,

and

  • a strong feeling of disapproval that most people in a society have about something, especially when this is unfair.

As a society, we are governed by others. What they think of us and what we think of them. Men, especially, are viewed as weak or broken if they struggle with mental health. Our boys were raised on words such as:

  • Boys don’t cry
  • You throw like a girl
  • Don’t be a sissy
  • Boys will be boys
  • Man up
  • Don’t be a sook

With this type of programming, how can we expect men to want to show their feelings or emotions, not to mention when they do, they are often ridiculed for it.

On top of men feeling weak if they seek counselling, men often feel an intense level of shame. How much of a man can you be if you are needing someone to help you, or even feeling depressed for that matter? After all, men are meant to be stoic and unbreakable; they dare not show any vulnerability! All of this shoving down of emotions leads to substance abuse to numb the uncomfortable emotions; who can blame them?

Removing the stigma means we must discuss men’s mental health more. It needs to be an open conversation, just like those men did in Adelaide. They were brave and authentic. More so, they realised it is not healthy to hold feelings internal and death with the dramas and traumas of life alone.

Are you talking to your mates? Are you talking to your sons? Are you talking to your brothers about mental health? If not, why not?

How to participate in Movember!

You can sign up and pledge here. Grab your mates, get growing that facial hair and raise some money for a worthy cause.

Start from a clean-shaven face; no cheating now.

Post photos, videos, reels, anything of the amazing hair appearing on that upper lip. Have fun with your posts – grab the attention of those around you!

Grab your donors early, or build them as you go. Talk to everyone about why you are growing this amazing piece of hair art. Get family and friends on board – create a team! Get all the men in your network growing and donate to support each other.

Host events – remember, the more creative you are, the more fun it is. I’m sure your upper lip artwork will appreciate it and grow quicker.

I’d love to see your images.

Grow the mow and help men’s mental health

Kellie Payne Psychotherapist and Counsellor, Midland, Perth

About the author

Kellie Sheldon is the owner and operator of Kellie Sheldon Trauma and Sex Counselling in Midland, Western Australia. She holds a Master of Counselling Practice from Tabor College in Perth. Specialising in trauma and sexual therapy, she focuses on aiding adults in forming secure connections. With a particular interest in kink, BDSM and trauma, she is adept in techniques like EMDR to assist clients in processing negative and traumatic memories. Kellie is a firm advocate for therapy's potential to alleviate symptoms stemming from childhood or relationship trauma. Her primary goal is to accompany her clients on their journey toward healing, recognising that healing involves not just addressing past events but also acknowledging what hasn't occurred.

Leave a comment