THE BLOG
11/15/2014 12:11 pm ET Updated Jan 15, 2015

The Movember Momentum and You: How Mustaches Are Changing Men's Health Beyond Cancer

Ah November, when the leaves above turn a gorgeous golden yellow and the men around us sprout facial hair in the name of men's health. It's that time of the year again. It's Movember.

If you've been living under a rock on mars for the past decade, then you might not know what Movember is all about. Similar to Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, November seeks to bring attention, awareness, and funding to topics of health affecting men, such as prostate cancer and testicular cancer. Their goal could not be more apt: "To change the face of men's health."

So Does Growing A Mustache Actually Do Anything?

Movember began in 2003 in Melbourne with just 30 men. Since then Movember has grown to include over 4 million participants and raised $559 million worldwide for men's health initiatives (1). And like the pink ribbon is to breast cancer, facial hair of all shapes, sizes, and thickness (some more impressive than others), have become the emblem of men's health allowing our male counterparts to finally feel comfortable talking about their bodies and wellbeing.

So while a handlebar mustache may look absolutely ridiculous on your partner, know that it's all in promoting a better and more healthy future for the men you love and care about in your life. Sandy Goodman (2), in an article with The Huffington Post a few years ago summed it up best: "It just wasn't something you talked about. My wife would go in every year for her breast exams and the pap smears. She was very open about that. I never heard any friends talking about testicular cancer or what a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) score was."

The Macho Male Psyche

From joining a community of Mo Bros to participating in the Running of the Mos, Movember has found a way to reach out to men in a fashion that would never have worked if it were just about ribbons and being serious. Using humor and ol' fashioned stereotypes of men, Movember has succeeded in becoming cool and socially acceptable. According to Dan Zenka (2), the senior vice president of communications for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, "Men are very different from women. They're not going to put on the T-shirts and do the runs. [Movember] is really suited to the male psyche."

More Than Just a Hairy Upper Lip

While Movember is often known for its amazing work with prostate cancer and testicular cancer, they're also a big proponent of shedding awareness and understanding on a myriad other health issues affecting men. Something that really stands out for me, however, is the progress they've made with mental health (4).

Depression, anxiety, and mental health issues are rarely discussed, especially by men. When we've grown up with beliefs such as, "Boys don't cry," and "Stop acting like a girl," it can be hard for men to open up about depression or anxiety, even (or especially) to their loved ones and closest friends. Whereas women can freely or are expected to talk about their feelings, it's always been assumed that men can cure anything with a bottle of jack and a night out with the guys. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

Movember has clear goals and objectives set out for their mental health program. Listed right at the top of their page on mental health, Movember seeks to achieve the following goals:

1. Men and boys are mentally healthy.
2. Those who experience mental health problems take action early and live lives free of stigma and discrimination.

I love this. I think it's incredibly powerful and progressive to have this out in the open. While changing how society views mental health problems may take some time, this definitely opens up safe channels for discussion.

In a blog on The Huffington Post by Poorna Bell (5), she spoke wisely about the effects of depression and how it had affected her husband. When he tried to explain how he felt to her, he said, "Imagine it's your birthday and your child has just been born. You should by all rights be happy, but you can't even touch the emotion of happiness -- the black cloud that hangs over consumes you. It is the only thing you can see."

Depression is no joke and can be a debilitating illness that affects you and your family, but with charities and organizations like Movember working to change how we view mental health problems, it may become easier for people to seek help when they need it and heal without shame or embarrassment.

Open Up

It doesn't matter what gender you are. Movember can be a great way to finally allow yourselves or your loved ones to open up and share any health concerns you may have, be they mental, physical, or preventative. For some inspiration, check out Sarah O'Neill's mustache from last year (6).

References:

1. "About Movember." Movember United States. Movember, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. http://us.movember.com/about/history.

2. Goldberg, Eleanor. "'Movember' Urges Men To Grow Facial Hair, Fundraise For Prostate Cancer Awareness (SLIDESHOW)." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 04 Nov. 2011. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/04/movemeber-facial-hair-prostate-cancer-awareness_n_1074615.html.

3. "Movember Men's Health" Movember United States. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. http://us.movember.com/programs/mental-health.

4. Bell, Poorna. "Depression Shouldn't Be the Subject of Rubbish Jokes, Especially During Movember." The Huffington Post UK. N.p., 13 Nov. 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/poorna-bell/movember-male-depression_b_4265599.html?utm_hp_ref=movember.

5. Goldberg, Eleanor. "Woman Growing Movember Moustache Is Picture Of Confidence, Generosity, Overall Awesomeness." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 07 Nov. 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/07/woman-movember-moustache-_n_4234198.html.