Each November, my family group chat receives a selfie from my little brother dawning his freshly shaved baby face. It marks the beginning of him and his friends growing and sporting mustaches as part of the Movember movement. A grassroots campaign turned global phenomenon raising funds while aiming to breakdown masculinity and the stigma associated with men talking about, caring for, and centering their health. The focus of the campaign started out with physical health but has quickly expanded to include the scope of mental health understanding the deep bench masculinity wields over men.
Canadian Mental Health Association (2022) states men die by suicide 3x the rate of women. Part of this can be explained by how masculinity trains men from an early age to suppress emotion and not talk about their feelings with others. Masculinity seeks aid from stigma, silence, and socialization to keep men quiet on their health-related matters. Statistics Canada (2023) highlights the importance of intersectionality as part of the conversation on men’s mental health noting that certain diverse identities and lived experiences will have lower quality scores in self-reported mental well-being. Thanks to the awareness and men’s health campaigns we are learning ways to change this current reality.
Movember, with support of R U OK? shares the ALEC Method for using a simple, proven, and helpful guide to reach out to a friend, a father, a brother, or any masculine-identifying loved one in your life who might be going through a tough time.
Ask how they’re doing and what’s been happening in their life lately. It’s worth mentioning any changes you’ve noticed; whatever it might be, he’s just not himself. Remember, people often say “I’m fine” when they’re not, so don’t be afraid to ask twice.
Listen by giving your full attention. Let him know you’re hearing what he’s saying and you’re not there to judge. You don’t have to diagnose problems or offer solutions. It would be good to be mindful of the space you choose to connect and finding a way to do so in a private manner will communicate respect.
Encourage them to action towards feeling better. This could include a variety of interventions, but it might be a visit with their doctor or mental health professional.
Continue to check-in on them regularly maybe even suggest a catch-up in-person if you can both swing it. Demonstrate continued care by showing investment in the discussion and their action steps.
Movember Conversations provides an online practice tool using the ALEC Method to explore some common topics such as grief and loss, work stress, or other emotional disturbances. It provides an opportunity to guide you through how to start the conversation and keep moving it in the right direction. It’s important to note the content of this blog or this tool should not be substituted for professional care but is a means to start a conversation.
If you know someone who is struggling with or wants space to process their health – mental, physical, or otherwise, we at Eterna would be happy to hear from them to have a relational nonjudgmental conversation that builds on normalizing men caring for their health.
Happy 20th Birthday Movember! I hope we continue to see your success in changing the narrative on men’s health, and most importantly the statistics. Excuse me while I go make a donation to my brother’s campaign and ask him how he’s doing.
~ Josh Miller, Intern Therapist