What comes to mind when you hear about Movember? For me, Sam, along with many others, it’s about random moustaches suddenly appearing on the faces of usually clean-shaven friends!
Movember originated in 2004, in Australia, as a way to raise money and awareness about prostate cancer and depression in men, and has since grown into a leading worldwide charity “changing the face of men’s health” (Movember foundation).
Prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health/suicide prevention are the three key issues that the Movember foundation tackle. Statistics are showing that there has been an increase in suicide in the last couple of years and, in particular, male suicide has increased sharply.
1 in 8 UK men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
It is the most common cancer found in men today.
Testicular cancer strikes young. It’s the most common cancer in young UK men.
Fortunately there is a 95% survival rate from this type of cancer.
For both of these, knowing the signs and symptoms are key so, for more information, the NHS is always a great starting point – or look at these top tips!
The statistic that shocked both Ash and myself is the next one.
GLOBALLY, ON AVERAGE, 1 MAN DIES BY SUICIDE EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY.
This took me a while to get my head around. Stating the obvious a little but that is a HIGH statistic! Suicide affects everybody, but 6 out of 10 suicides are men. Why?
Unfortunately, the ‘gender norm’ of what a man ‘should’ be is stopping many from asking for help. When times are tough the advice is to ‘man up’. If a tear is shed you’re acting ‘like a girl’. There is a lot of stereotypical perceptions of what a man ‘should’ be that can prevent men from talking about their feelings.
This is what Movember aims to do. Open a conversation for men and boys to feel comfortable to talk about mental health, and to check their bodies.
For both genders, suicide is something that can be prevented. It is something I have worked with a lot when volunteering with the Swindon Samaritans. The main things if you are struggling with your mental health are:
TALK! – You may be pleasantly surprised by how much support you receive if you open up to a friend or a loved one about your mental health. If you aren’t feeling comfortable with this idea, talking to a stranger could be less daunting. This is why Samaritans exist. They are not there to judge, they are not invested in your life to give you their opinion. They are not there to tell you ‘don’t do it’. They are there for you to talk through WHY you are feeling a certain way and, in doing so, help you explore how you could cope with those feelings. They are not an advice line, they are a life line. Many people feel they can only use Samaritans if they are feeling actively suicidal when, in fact, they are a suicide prevention charity. Talking about your mental health now could prevent negative feelings from building and escalating.
YOUR FEELINGS ARE VALID. When I was in a very dark place, it was easy to believe that I was alone. When first I realised I had a problem with alcohol I tried to ‘cut down’ and cope alone. I was so ashamed that I told only a couple of people. A year later my drinking had got worse, until I hit my rock bottom. Once I made the decision to never drink again, I started telling anyone that would listen what I was going through. And the more people I talked to, the stronger I became.
DO SOMETHING FOR YOU. We dedicate a lot of our time to others – to our families, to our workplace, to our friends. It is not necessarily a bad thing… unless we lose balance and don’t dedicate enough time to ourselves. When we are struggling with our mental health, acknowledging that we need some time out and taking that time can make a massive difference. From a 5 minute walk to get away from the desk, a 45 minute gym class, to a weekend at home in front of the TV. Do not feel guilty for looking after you and aiming to improve your mental health.
SUPPORT EACH OTHER. Look for signs in others that they may be struggling. If in doubt, strike up an honest conversation anyway. Even if you are feeling fine right now, opening up to a colleague or friend will make it 100 times easier to talk when you are in need.
KEEP A DIARY. If you know that you struggle with your mental health, a mood diary can help to see if anything in particular triggers certain feelings. If talking to a friend or a stranger is too daunting, try talking with yourself. Write it all down – the more you do it when you are feeling fine, the easier it will be when you are not.
DON’T BRUSH IT OFF. If someone important to you is feeling low, especially the men in your life, try not to minimise their feelings. Encourage them to talk and open up, especially if there seems to be a pattern of ups and downs. Equally, if you find yourself feeling low more often than not, take steps to prevent those feelings from getting worse.
Remember that none of us can have complete control over somebody else and their actions. One of the most important lessons I learned as a listening volunteer in the Samaritans is that what is the right action for one person may not be right for someone else, which is why giving advice can often be counterproductive. Empathy and a listening ear are the best tools we have to help minimise these statistics that are growing every year.
If you do need to talk to somebody, the Samaritans are a 24 hour service via phone, text or email. More information can be found on their website.
If you do spot an awkward moustache, or you are growing one yourself, remember what it’s representing. Reach out to the people around you and have that honest conversation. Since starting SMASH London we have heard from many of you about your own mental health journeys and we are learning more and more about your lives. We are so honoured to have developed that trust with you and we hope it continues for a long time!
We are very grateful for you ?
Sam and Ash
Content is from Sam and Ash at SMASH London. To find out more about them visit their site: www.smashlondon.co.uk
I have been a Personal Trainer since 2015, having previously been a listening volunteer for the Samaritans, I knew that I wanted to work with people to see just how amazing we can all be! I am a lover of life and enjoy a challenge, pushing myself and others to reach various goals. I very much believe in whole body fitness and health -my mission is to inspire you to become the best version of yourself and make every day count.