This is a guest post by Eugene Grant. Eugene is a great friend of mine, a freelance writer and social commentator.
It’s not an easy subject. For many males – admittedly, this writer included – our psyches are modelled and moulded by traditional discourses of masculinity, hardiness and gendered provider/protector roles. Forget what you’ve heard about man-flu: we don’t get ill, hurt or tired. Well, much. And when we do, many of us abide by an Omerta-like code of silence that could inspire the envy of even the most conspiratorial Mafia family.
But it’s not true, and it’s not helpful.
Almost 20% of men are likely to be treated for mental health issues. Over the past three decades, three to four times more men have taken their own lives than women. There has been no point during this thirty-year period when the rate of suicide among women was higher than that of men.
One of such man was a close friend of mine. One of the hardest, toughest, most creative and humorous people I’ve known took his own life after years of trouble and turmoil most of us cannot – thankfully – even imagine became just too much. That was a few years ago. I wish his family knew how much I miss him, sometimes.
A year or so later, in 2011, over 10,500 men died from a different health condition: prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death among men in the UK. That year, a further 2,000 men were diagnosed with testicular cancer, according to leading charity, Cancer Research UK.
Us men do get ill. Seriously ill. We do breakdown. We die – often before our time.
It is with all this in mind that this year, for the first time, I signed up to participate in Movember – growing a moustache, on it’s own (no beards allowed), for the whole of November – to raise funds for vital support and research programmes that help men and their families who live with these conditions, day-in-day out.
Movember is great fun – and possibly the best example of global, co-ordinated and (effectively) branded volunteer fundraising there is. Men everywhere are either taking part or know someone who is. Facebook is awash with clean-shaven ‘selfies’; gyms, pubs and canteens buzz with discussion about whether to grow a handlebar, or a walrus; whether to emulate Tom Selleck or copy Salvador Dali.
My girlfriend is utterly horrified and a staunch opponent of me growing a ‘tache’. I can’t say I blame her. I am under no pretences that, by the end of the month, I will look truly terrible: more like a prepubescent Ethan Hawke than a modern day Teddy Roosevelt.
But it is precisely the sacrifice of dignity – something else many men are bad at – that embodies much of the spirit of Movember.
After all, we’re not invincible; we do get ill; we do breakdown.
And that’s okay.
So let’s help each other, and our families, through it the best we can.
We need to talk about men’s health. We need to talk about your mo’.