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A Close Shave: Reflecting on "Movember"

By Charlotte Parker MBACP

What is Movember? Movember is a global fundraising event in November that aims to raise awareness and make a difference in male mental health, suicide prevention, prostate cancer, and testicular cancer.

The idea behind the project started twenty years ago when two guys in Melbourne, Australia, went for a beer and joked about how the facial hair of a moustache had become out of fashion. So they asked their friends if they would donate money for cancer charities and dare to ditch the razor for the month of November. To date, eighteen countries are now involved and have helped over 1,320 men’s health projects funded since 2003 and raised over 6 million pounds (Great British Pounds).

And it's not just men, but 'Mo-sisters' who have fundraised and hosted charity events in support of this good cause.

So you might be asking yourself, why or how is this relevant to me?

Because male health and wellbeing matter, there is still a stigma about men talking about their mental health, prostate cancer, and testicular cancer.

I have had first-hand experience with male clients who have informed me that from an early age they were told from their male role models that it was unmanly to talk about their troubles, advised to just get on with things, big boys don't cry, and how they should just 'man up'. This is the same with the subject of prostate and testicular cancer. Instead of speaking to a local doctor, they believed to themselves when finding a lump that the problem might just disappear or go away by itself.

The good news in regards for this particular client is that they found that when they shared their worries and began to talk more, his children would also open up to him, and that he did speak to his GP to find out his lump wasn't cancerous.

Men are much less likely to get help for their mental health. “According to the World Health Organisation, men account for 75% of all suicide deaths. Untreated depression is a major risk factor for suicide.” (2021). Here in the United Kingdom, where I live, 'only 36% of referrals to the National Health Service (NHS) for talking therapy are for men (2021).

Myself, other counsellors, and Movember want to help break down the idea that men have to suffer alone.

If you're worried about a certain man in your life, be it a family member, friend, or even co-worker, check in with them. As I've previously mentioned, many men don't tend to open up about what's bothering them, so if I were to say to a friend, 'Hey, you OK?' you would probably get the response, 'Yeah, I'm fine'. But if you feel like something is not quite right, I would suggest trying the ask three times method.

I have tried this technique in an old job of mine before I was a counsellor. I noticed one of my male colleagues was unusually quiet, so I asked him, 'Hey, are you OK?' He responded, 'Yeah, I'm alright." So I asked him the question again: 'Yeah, but are you really okay? He shrugged, so then I asked for a third time, 'Are you sure you're OK?' He then told me that he was having some issues at home; his wife was stressed and his children had been misbehaving, and we talked it through.

If I had taken his first response, he probably would have spent the rest of the day feeling worried. A problem shared is a problem halfed and it certainly doesn't make him less of a man for having that short conversation.

If the topic of mental health is difficult to discuss for you with someone you know, then it might be a suggestion for you or somebody you know to join a local community group for men. These groups are growing in popularity, where men from all backgrounds can meet up to discuss the challenges they are facing, including relationships, finances, and health worries.

Which leads us on to the topic of testicular cancer. Cancer of the testicle is one of the less common, is a relatively rare type of cancer, and tends to mostly affect men between 15 and 49 years of age.

Typical symptoms are a painless swelling or lump in one of the testicles or any change in shape or texture of the testicles.

Whereas with prostate cancer, the symptoms aren't mainly linked to appearance but are more noticeable when visiting the toilet, feeling an increase in visits, or when the bladder has not fully emptied.

It's important to be aware of what feels normal to you. Get to know your body and see a GP, doctor, or healthcare clinic if you notice any changes.

If you have been affected by these topics, please message me. If you or somebody you know wishes to instantly end their own life, please contact your local crisis centre or service. Those who are based in the UK can call Samaritans twenty-four hours a day or night on 116 123.

As many men and potentially their partners around the world count down to the end of Movember today, with either a newfound love of facial hair across their top lip or poised ready with their bead trimmers and razors, I would like to thank them for raising awareness. If you would like to know more about Movember, please click on the link below.

Charlotte Parker MBACP is a Person-Centred Pscyotherapist and Clinical Director of Southampton Counselling Practice. Charlotte previously worked for both a bereavement service and addiction clinic, and has presented her research thesis "Some You Win, Some You Lose" at the European Person-Centred Counselling Network in Athens in 2023.

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