Movember is raising funds and awareness for mental health, prostate cancer and testicular cancer in men through the growth of a mustache.
People grow mustaches for a variety of reasons. They might think they look better with facial hair than without; they might do it to attract attention; or they might do it because their significant others like it. For almost 20 years, the Movember Foundation has been giving men another reason to grow a mustache: making a change in men’s health.
Movember is a global men’s health organization funding projects all over the world to help address and combat mental health, prostate cancer and testicular cancer. It also partners with many other organizations that specialize in various aspects of men’s health.
“What we’ve realized was the simple idea behind getting men to grow a mustache generated conversation,” explains Mark Hedstrom, U.S. executive director at Movember. “With that, as we started to invest in cancer, we were focusing on the physical manifestations of the disease. What we realized is that there was an overlap on what else was happening with a man with respect to cancer. It’s not just physical issues, it’s also directly tied to mental health and overall wellness.”
Every November, mustaches are grown as a call to action for Movember’s cause. Participants create an account through Movember’s website to document their mustache progress and receive support and donations. All donations go toward funding health projects in suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer.
For Hedstrom, his work with Movember reaches a personal level. Before he joined the organization, Hedstrom lost a longtime friend to pancreatic cancer. He remembers the shock he and his other friends felt as his friend went through cancer treatment, and the sense of loss when his friend ultimately passed. Hedstrom wanted to do something to help other men through their struggles, both cancer- and mental health-related.
Movember’s goal is that by 2030, the number of men dying prematurely will be reduced by 25 percent. The organization’s hope is for more research and awareness to be directed toward cancer in men, and that men will have the facilities they need to take control of their mental health.
“What I’ve come to understand is that the language of the health system in most markets doesn’t really speak to men in the way they want to be spoken to,” says Hedstrom. “So, when you get to mental health, they don’t have permission to even talk about [it]. They won’t even engage a therapist, because that whole process is not set up for men to engage in the way that they would want to engage.”
Hedstrom, along with many other men, says he grew up in such a way where if you had a problem, you would “put duct tape or rub dirt on it. You don’t complain about it; you just move forward. What is the language [men] should be using to talk about these issues, or how do you engage a friend you know is struggling with their treatment from cancer or mental health issues? How do you start that conversation that gives permission for them to talk?”
“The language of the health system in most markets doesn’t really speak to men in the way they want to be spoken to.”
When humans deal with something like cancer—or even just life’s daily challenges—they need to be able to have support. Movember wants to give men the ability to have that support and share their problems, as well as put preventative measures in place when it comes to cancer and mental health.
“When you look at the statistics going back to the gender-based challenge that we see, men die on average five years younger than women in most of the markets we operate in. We operate in 20 countries around the world. Why is that? Biologically, yes, there’s some differentials, but it’s not a biological issue. So, what’s happening to men that they die five years younger than women in the markets we operate in?” asks Hedstrom.
This is what Movember wants to solve, and with the unified research, impact and work with other foundations around the world, the foundation is well on its way to providing hope that these grim statistics will be eradicated.
“Our ability to bring together numbers and researchers in institutions across the world is one of our biggest strengths because we can tackle some of the bigger challenges in cancer in general by doing that collective work across multiple markets and researchers,” remarks Hedstrom.
If you don’t want to grow a mustache, Movember has plenty of other ways to help contribute to its mission. You can run or walk 60 miles during the month of November to raise awareness for the number of men lost to suicide; come up with your own physical challenge; or even host a fun get-together with friends and raise donations. Whatever you choose to do, big or small, can help make Movember’s 2030 goal a reality.
For more information, visit us.movember.com.