Movember: Shining a Light on Men’s Health

trigger warning: mental health, suicide and cancer

Male suicides accounts for approximately 69% worldwide – over twice the number of female suicides. In addition to this, men live an average of five years less than women, and the charity Movember argues that this is largely due to preventable factors. The Movember movement was created for these reasons and raises awareness for men’s health to decrease premature death rates. They particularly focus on mental health as well as prostate and testicular cancer – the biggest health issues faced by men.

The high rate of male suicide is largely thought to be due to patriarchal expectations on men to conform to the masculine gender norms, such as strength, power, and lack of vulnerability. As women take up different roles in society, the male stereotypes of toughness and invulnerability are slowly being rewritten but they are still the dominant ideologies in many cultures. And yes, the patriarchy does disproportionately benefit men, however gender inequity often encourages behaviours that counter the qualities needed for good mental health. For example, vulnerable emotions such as anxiety or sadness can often trigger shame in men, discouraging them from seeking help. There is also a cultural pressure to appear independent, meaning they may not develop the rich support system that many women have. It is difficult to articulate the full extent to which patriarchal ideology is linked to male suicides and this only scratches the surface of the many reasons men may commit suicide.

Movember has had a huge impact in suicide prevention! With all the money that the public donate, Movember has been able to set up multiple different schemes and education tools to help counter toxic masculinity and raise awareness for male mental health. These include school-based suicide prevention programs and a global campaign known as ‘spot the signs’.

However, Movember are not just shining a light on men’s mental health issues but also the physical health issue of prostate cancer. This is one of the most common cancers worldwide, and the difference between early and late detection can be life or death. In many cases prostate cancer is asymptomatic, and therefore it is vital that people with a prostate are encouraged to be tested between the ages of 45 and 50. As well as raising awareness of this, Movember has done amazing things to raise funding for prostate cancer medical research. They have allowed the initiation of 188 clinical trials and the development of 70 therapies for prostate cancer! Testicular cancer is the most common cancer amongst young people with testicles, however, 62 per cent of those most at risk do not know how to check themselves. Movember has come up with a tool called ‘nuts and bolts’ to help people confidently tackle their journey with testicular cancer.

Throughout the month of November, the students of Exeter University have been raising awareness and money for the Movember movement. The Athletics Club collectively ran 988.32 kilometres, whilst the Tennis Society held a challenge to see who could run the furthest in 48 hours. Four ambassadors of Exeter Movember organised fundraising events such as the Great British Shave Off and Move for Mo. Countless other events have taken place, and there are still more to come. Because of all this hard work, the University has managed to raise over £110,000 so far! These funds will go to the Movember charity, where they will go a long way in the battle to protect men’s health.

This fight isn’t over, each year we must continue to do all we can to support this very worthy cause.

Keziah Lee

If you have been affected by any of issues detailed in this article, support is available. Samaritans – 116123, Mind and the University Wellbeing services.

Featured Image: Still via Youtube // What is Movember? / Movember

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