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Comment: Movember is a tap on the shoulder for all of us

My most frequently asked question is: “What is Movember really about? You know, at a grassroots level?”
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Victoria firefighters sport Movember moustaches to raise support and awareness about men's health in 2011. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

A commentary by an IT ­professional at the University of ­Victoria who enjoys raising money and awareness — not necessarily in that order.

Back in 2003, the Movember movement started quite spontaneously — perhaps as something of a joke between two Australian co-workers, Travis Garone and Luke Slattery.

The premise was, let’s give up shaving for a month, grow a moustache … for a cause.

At that point in men’s ­fashion, facial hair was very uncool. Momentum swiftly “grew,” and similar to the branding for breast cancer advocacy, visible marketing ensued, concentrating on male health awareness — and initially just about prostate cancer.

This first team numbered 30. Shortly thereafter, they contacted the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. Within one year, there were 450 participants in Australia, the U.K. and Spain gathering $54,000 for the foundation.

Movember quickly went global. The campaign travelled to New Zealand, the U.S. and Canada, eventually ­heightening awareness of men’s health issues, raising $21.5 million ­Australian to sponsor more than 770 men’s health projects.

Fast forward to 2022. ­Globally we have counted on almost seven million participants. Within Canada, all teams combined have raised more than $24 million, 81% of which funds a myriad of health initiatives.

My most frequently asked question is: “What is Movember really about? You know, at a grassroots level?”

I’ve been engaged in a conversation lasting over a decade. I talk to individuals or small groups about the tragedy of silence and the dire consequences of isolation.

While the statistics for self-harm are higher for women, the incidence of premature death among men is staggering, sobering and, quite often, heartbreaking when you consider the difference a conversation would have made, or a cup of coffee and a ready ear, or a recitation of some basic facts about male health and wellness.

And for all those ­random ­conversations, it is the ­occasional tap on the shoulder when a young colleague asks me into his office to discuss something that has been troubling him. Sometimes the practice of “active silence and mindful ­listening” is just the thing to start a process of healing. I am no psychologist, but I do maintain a comprehensive list of contacts and resources for moments like these.

Over the years I have had a dozen or more male friends reveal their diagnosis: Cancer. For men and women, it’s one of the most dreaded words in the human experience. But, one of the best weapons against any disease is knowledge … and conversation … and compassion.

My mantra: Do not do this alone. Nobody expects you to suffer in silence.

This one thing, above all ­others, seems to make the ­biggest difference. Any ­struggle requires a team. Whether it’s a doctor, or a nurse, a brother, ­sister or mother. Men are notorious for not sharing their emotional and physical struggles.

So this is my thing. I raise money for a cause. I’m good at it. Over the years I have raised thousands for issues that deserve a special approach.

But at the end of the day, it is the one-on-one ­conversations that, I feel, have done the ­greatest good.

Seriously, you don’t need to grow a moustache to make change. Be the listener. Be aware. If you know someone who is contemplating self-harm, get professional help immediately.

Many friends, neighbours and colleagues just need someone to share their thoughts with. It is easy being this person.

In 2022, the primary focus of Movember is male physical health and mental wellness.

For more information on the subject of Movember, visit ca.Movember.com — you will be glad you did.

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