Imagine a world where men are openly embracing, laughing, crying and expressing all of their emotions. Weird, right? Nope. This is what men do at nearly every sporting event or sports bar in the world. Unfortunately, that openness and comfort to express their feelings doesn't always translate away from sports.
The good news is that this November, one organization is working to change that by focusing on bringing awareness to men's mental health. And they're doing it by asking men to grow moustaches.
Movember is the leading global organization committed to changing the face of men's health. During November, they challenge men to grow a moustache to spark conversation and raise funds and awareness for men's health issues. In the past they have focused on prostate and testicular cancer. This year they're adding mental health for a host of good reasons.
Men are more than four times more likely to die by suicide than women. The suicide rate in men ages 35-64 has increased 28 percent in the last decade. We're shocked every time someone like Robin Williams takes his own life, but he is certainly not alone. Men abuse substances more than women, we experience more antisocial behavior, and men are less likely to seek help for their mental health.
As a guy who had to learn emotional lessons the hard way and is still continuing to figure out the best ways to balance my life, I really appreciate Movember's efforts. Throughout my late teens and early 20s, people were constantly concerned about my behavior. I binge drank, had explosive anger, drove drunk and attempted to take my own life. Eventually someone would ask me how I felt and I wouldn't know what to say.
Like a lot of guys, I grew up in a home where emotional words weren't used. I didn't have a starting point, which made me feel stupid. On top of that I felt that talking about my feelings was a sign of weakness. It was embarrassing. It was easier to numb myself with alcohol or drugs than it was to talk about anything. I always felt that I should just suck up whatever I was going through and eventually the emotions would go away.
The problem is the issues don't go away on their own. A lot of times the things we hide build into something else. If a guy starts a pattern of suppressing his emotions early, it can lead to horribly destructive behavior later in his life. This might be contributing to the high suicide rate in men between the ages of 35-64 or the shocking actions men are taking when they are rejected.
To change the way I dealt with my emotions I needed to take some major steps. I had to identify all of the reasons I didn't want to seek help, then work on them in order to accept what was happening in my life. Next I had to try and find ways to talk about what I was going through. After that I had to take action to change the negative behaviors in my life. Then practice new behaviors until they were more natural for me. It's an ongoing process that also requires help from friends, partners, family and whatever community we can find.
Talking about mental health is manly. Getting men at any age to believe that expressing themselves is a sign of strength is vital. It takes much more effort to be honest, forthcoming and do the work to address the mental health challenges in our lives than it does to avoid them. A guy who can address his emotions has stronger relationships, friendships and can adapt to life's difficulties.
As I grow my moustache this month, I'll be happy to share my thoughts and feelings about what I'm going through now. I'll also be happy to start conversations and let others know they can talk about whatever they're experiencing.
I'm not sure what else needs to happen in our society for people to start talking about mental health. Hopefully, the moustaches we see this month are a way to break the ice and give guys comfort to talk about their mental health as easily as they talk about sports.
Have a story about depression or mental illness that you'd like to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at (860) 348-3376, and you can record your story in your own words. Please be sure to include your name and phone number.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.