Movem­ber is on every­body’s lips

Char­ity cam­paign is play­ing key role in pro­mot­ing men’s health

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Health Lifestyle - Liz Farsaci

The chill is in the air, the leaves are on the ground – and sud­denly ev­ery man seems to be sport­ing a mous­tache. And just at the mo­ment when you be­gin to ques­tion the sud­den fas­ci­na­tion with up­per-lip fa­cial hair, you re­mem­ber that it is Movem­ber.

Cel­e­brat­ing its 10th an­niver­sary in Ire­land this year, Movem­ber – short for Mous­tache Novem­ber – has its ori­gins in a pub con­ver­sa­tion that took place in Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia, in 2003, when a group of lads, la­ment­ing the demise of the mous­tache, each re­solved to grow one. Within two years, the idea be­came so pop­u­lar among their friends that they de­cided to run it as a char­ity event high­light­ing men’s health is­sues.

Since then, Movem­ber has be­come a global char­ity and cam­paign de­signed to high­light men’s health, par­tic­u­larly in re­la­tion to prostate cancer, as well as tes­tic­u­lar cancer, men­tal health and sui­cide pre­ven­tion. In do­ing so, the ini­tia­tive hopes to help men live longer and im­prove their qual­ity of life.

Get checked early

Prostate cancer is the sec­ond most com­mon cancer in Ire­land (af­ter skin cancer), with nearly 3,500 men di­ag­nosed each year. This means that more than 40,000 men in Ire­land have had a prostate cancer di­ag­no­sis. If prostate cancer is caught early, most men sur­vive – but many con­tinue to avoid reg­u­lar check-ups.

“A lot of men ig­nore the signs and symp­toms in the first place, and pre­sent late to their doc­tor,” says Neil Rooney, Movem­ber coun­try man­ager for Ire­land. “They then have a worse out­come just based on the fact that they’re do­ing that very Ir­ish, very male thing of say­ing, ‘I’ll be grand and it will go away it­self’. But lit­er­ally, that is killing men.”

Re­tired ca­reer consultant Brian Her­man (79), who was di­ag­nosed with prostate cancer in 2006, also em­pha­sises the im­por­tance of get­ting checked. Due to early de­tec­tion and ef­fec­tive treat­ment, he was able to treat the dis­ease and just re­cently got the all-clear from his doc­tor.

Movem­ber has played an im­por­tant role in en­cour­ag­ing men to seek help, says the Dublin man and fa­ther of three, and he ad­vises any man over the age of 50 to get tested.

“Movem­ber does a lot of good work in fo­cus­ing peo­ple’s at­ten­tion on these is­sues, and helps make peo­ple aware of what’s there and what’s pos­si­ble,” he says. “I know de­spite ev­ery­thing, I still have a few friends who still don’t bother do­ing any­thing about them­selves.”

Movem­ber, es­tab­lished in Ire­land in 2008, has cap­tured the Ir­ish pub­lic’s imag­i­na­tion – more than 100,000 peo­ple have par­tic­i­pated in the cam­paign – due largely to the fact that it taps into peo­ple’s de­sire to talk about men’s health in a new way, ac­cord­ing to Rooney. “The mous­tache is essen­tially a tro­jan horse to open up of­ten-ig­nored con­ver­sa­tions about men’s health that oth­er­wise were in the back­ground,” he says.

“Ten years ago, when Movem­ber be­gan in Ire­land, aware­ness around men’s health was very, very poor, and there was def­i­nitely an ap­petite out there for change in the way men’s health was be­ing tack­led by both the gov­ern­ment and char­i­ties.

“So when we came along with a cam­paign that spoke to men in their lan­guage there was a real groundswell of peo­ple who stood up and said it isn’t ac­cept­able the way men’s health is be­ing treated.”

Since then, Movem­ber has suc­ceeded in bring­ing men’s health is­sues into the pub­lic dis­course, ac­cord­ing to Donal Buggy, head of ser­vices at the Ir­ish Cancer So­ci­ety, which part­ners with Movem­ber.

“Movem­ber has al­lowed men to talk, in par­tic­u­lar, about the im­pact of a prostate cancer di­ag­no­sis and the chal­lenges that brings, in a dif­fer­ent way,” says Buggy. “It has also cap­tured the chang­ing times, where now the pa­tient’s voice is very im­por­tant – it’s putting the man front and cen­tre in­stead of the cancer front and cen­tre.”

The girls are talk­ing

It is from women, and their abil­ity to have con­ver­sa­tions about health­care, that Movem­ber has taken much in­spi­ra­tion.

“If you look at the in­cred­i­ble work that’s be­ing done by women and the breast cancer move­ment over the years – the fundrais­ing has been amaz­ing, but it’s also the at­ti­tude,” says Rooney.

“Women are open and hon­est and will­ing to talk about these is­sues, and great at hav­ing these con­ver­sa­tions with each other, whereas men aren’t tra­di­tion­ally will­ing to en­gage in types of dis­cus­sions.

“So we’ve tried to em­u­late the work that the women health move­ment has done, and to try to bring that same kind of at­ten­tion to men’s health.”

Along with the highly vis­i­ble fundrais­ing that’s done each Novem­ber, Movem­ber works be­hind the scenes through­out the rest of the year, bring­ing to­gether re­searchers from around the world who are in­ves­ti­gat­ing prostate cancer and other men’s health is­sues.

In Ire­land, Movem­ber has funded more than 30 prostate cancer ini­tia­tives, in part­ner­ship with the Ir­ish Cancer So­ci­ety. This has in­cluded the fund­ing of two prostate cancer nurses, one in Dublin and one in Gal­way, and fi­nan­cial grants for pa­tients and their fam­i­lies, as well as the Ir­ish prostate cancer out­comes reg­istry, which was es­tab­lished in Fe­bru­ary 2014.

But de­spite the suc­cess in open­ing up con­ver­sa­tions about men’s health, there is still much work to be done.

Buggy says the next steps in­clude a dual fo­cus on em­pow­er­ing men to make in­formed de­ci­sions, and on im­prov­ing qual­ity of life.

Rooney says Movem­ber also wants to fo­cus on men’s men­tal health, whether they are strug­gling with the knock-on ef­fects of a cancer di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment, or with other is­sues such as de­pres­sion.

“We re­ally need the on­go­ing sup­port of men who want try to change the sys­tem, or women who want to sup­port the men in their lives,” says Mr Rooney. “So we’re call­ing on men: if you’ve grown be­fore, grow again, and if you haven’t done it be­fore, this is the year to do it.”

PHO­TO­GRAPH: ISTOCK

Movem­ber is cel­e­brat­ing its 10th an­niver­sary in Ire­land this year.

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