The Motive Behind the Mo


The Motive Behind the Mo

As with many of history’s greatest ideas (and maybe a few of its worst) the origin of the Movember movement was born in a pub. A group of Aussie friends brewed the idea in an Adelaide boozer and decided that they would allow their lip foliage to grow freely in efforts to raise money for prostate cancer research.

From humble beginnings, 80 men soon snowballed into a worldwide facial hair phenomenon which has raised over £440 million for men’s health to date. The Movember Foundation celebrates ten years of moustachery overseas this November. The campaign was kicked off in a poignant way as 360 men gathered for a 12 hour ‘shave-a-thon’, in representation of the 360 men in the UK who will lose their lives to suicide this month alone.

Despite the increase in awareness of mental health issues and attention from the media, a 3.4% decrease in male suicide rates compared to 2015 still saw 5,668 men take their lives in 2016. The global death toll sits at over 500,000 men every year.

Although the current government declared mental health a priority, recent figures revealed that Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) – responsible for the planning and commissioning of healthcare services for their local area – had underspent their mental health budget by £48.6 million. Almost by sheer coincidence, the number of children being rejected for mental health treatment by NHS Trusts reached 109,000 (150 a day) between 2015 and 2017.

No two mental health cases are the same and the complexities of the illness are theorised and documented but not entirely understood. However, my prognosis as to why there has been a spike in suicide rates among young men is quite simple.

As the most plugged in generation ever, we are forever bombarded by the extraordinary. A problem Mark Manson (author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck) calls mass-media-driven exceptionalism. All we see is the best of the best and the worst of the worst “because in the media business that’s what gets eyeballs and eyeballs bring money”.

In just one commute spent on my smartphone, Sky News will reveal to me the most brutal murders of the week, the latest terror threat, rising house prices and government cuts. When I divert my attention to Facebook I can see the most expensive holidays, read about how a meat diet is killing me and watch a video about a 12-year-old who just made his first million. By the end of my commute I’ve been fed so much bullshit I’m full before breakfast and wondering if Justin Bieber would share his £200 million to cover my £4,200 annual train ticket.

This barrage of extreme information has conditioned us to view exceptionalism as the new normal, and ultimately distort the metrics by which people value their own lives. However rare these exceptional moments are, it’s broadcast in a way that suggests it’s happening all day, every day and shared by everyone. We’re forgetting to take life for what it is and live in the present moment. Instead we’re stressing about moments from our past and our future which haven’t happened yet.

Limited action from governing bodies means it is paramount for us to look for new ways of confronting men’s health in the public domain. Leading psychologist, Professor Robin Dunbar of Oxford University argues that we need to make more ‘man time’ and encourages everyone to meet with their friends at least twice a week and ‘do stuff’. Whether it’s playing a team sport or just cracking open some cold ones with the boys, his research suggests that men who maintain this practice are healthier, recover from illness faster and tend to be more generous – and I’m not one to question science.

Related: Don’t ‘Man Up’, Speak Up