Now that the month is over, it feels like a good time to consider the scope of what the Movember movement is tackling in terms of men’s physical and mental health. First started in 2003 in Australia when four friends asked twenty-six others to ‘bring back the trend’ of growing moustaches, Movember has come a long way – raising £598 million over the last sixteen years. The annual event has become about more than just growing out your facial hair, with men and women across the globe raising awareness and money for this worthwhile cause.
At the University of Exeter, we have been particularly committed to Movember, involving 843 members across 64 different teams and raising £85,960 this year (the most out of any university in the UK!) Out of all the month-long challenges we see people participate in today – Stoptober, Veganuary and Dry January are just some examples – Movember seems to be the most prominent among the student community. Perhaps this is because of the activist culture within universities, the fundraising that goes on specifically within sports clubs, or simply an awareness of the shocking fact that one UK student (more frequently male) dies by suicide every four days.
Fundraising this year has been carried out in a multitude of ways, from growing moustaches (some admittedly more successful than others) to hosting events on campus, and involving many different groups and individuals: within sports teams, other university societies or unaffiliated with either. Tate Spurling, who has raised an impressive £1,085 (the third highest amount out of everyone at Exeter) for EUAFC (men’s football), spoke to me about his reasons behind ‘growing a pretty shady moustache’ – ‘the issues Movember supports have really affected my family so it does strike a bit of a chord with them, but they’ve been really generous.’ The money raised by students like Tate funds over 1,250 projects, enables partnerships with twenty men’s health groups and runs across twenty different countries – and you can’t put a price on that.
Movember is about more than just the money. Matt Anderson, who set himself the goal of running 75km this November, sums this up perfectly: ‘money is not the only way you can contribute. Check on your mates, ask them how they are doing and let them know you are there for them. That may be all they need to hear.’ Toxic masculinity, perpetrating the harmful societal belief that talking about your feelings is emasculating, promotes a self-reliance and emotional repression which can lead to more series psychological problems in men such as anxiety, depression and substance abuse. Movember are committed to reducing the rate of male suicide by 25% before 2030, and one of the ways in which they want to do this is by destroying the dangerous taboo that it’s not okay to ask for help.
Movember’s ‘Move’ initiative challenges supporters to walk or run 60km throughout the month, ‘for the 60 men lost to suicide each hour.’ As a university, we have ‘moved’ 11960.4km. Anna Banks set herself the challenge of running 100km and walking 200km, raising £300 for EULHC (ladies hockey). She says, ‘I decided to try run 100km just to challenge my fitness really. I wanted to commit to the routine for the whole month and obviously as donations came in, quitting wasn’t an option! It has been actually very enjoyable, if a bit tiring on top of hockey training and matches also. I won’t be carrying on with quite so many kilometres each week after November but since doing it I have decided to train for a half marathon!’ Exercise improves both physical and mental health, and team sport is a great way to encourage interaction with others, so through this challenge Movember is achieving two of its main goals.
When Movember is criticised for its misogynistic premise, misguided aims and lack of female counterpart, it feels like we may be missing the point. If it is true that the feminist movement is beneficial for men, then surely the same applies when it is the other way around? As a member of EULCC (ladies cricket), who have raised £1,933 this year by completing a 25-mile night walk, taking part in the ‘Move for Mo!’ event and hosting a club open session, I can testify to the fact that Movember is far from an exclusively male movement. Suicide prevention, improving quality of life and increasing life expectancy are issues that affect everyone, it just so happens that at this particular moment in time and society, they seem to be more pressing for men.
Seeing the way in which Exeter University has got involved with Movember over the past few years proves a commitment to protecting future generations of men that we may not have had in our society before. But this movement is more than just one month of the year, men’s health is something that we should be thinking about all year round. So, until next November, continue fighting for change for our ‘fathers, brothers, sons and friends,’ ultimately it means change for us all.
– Esther Huntington-Whiteley
Here are some support networks you can contact if you feel affected by any of the issues discussed in this article:
University of Exeter Wellbeing Services (Phone: 01392 724381, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Nightline (Phone: 01392 724000, Instant Messenger: https://im.exeter.nightline.ac.uk, Skype: exeterstudentnightline, Email: email@example.com)
Exeter Student Minds- Positive Minds Peer Support Group (https://www.facebook.com/ExeterPositiveMinds/)
Samaritans (Phone: 116 123, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the branch at 10 Richmond Road, Exeter, Devon, EX4 4JA)
Men’s Action Network (Phone: 02871 377777, Email: email@example.com)