I’ve decided to grow a moustache, please give some money to charity.
This probably sounds like a hundreds of requests you get or see every year.
“I’m running a mile / 10K / half-marathon / full-marathon / tough mudder / iron-man sponsor me”
“I’m climbing Snowdon, sponsor me”
“I’m cycling to Paris, sponsor me”
“I’m jumping out of a plane, sponsor me”
“I’m going on a once in a lifetime trek for 3 months, sponsor me (and pay for my holiday at the same time)”
So big deal huh, growing a ‘tasche isn’t exactly difficult, in fact it involves shaving a third less of my face, so it’s actually easier than not growing one. You could argue I’ll look a bit daft but the discomfort I’ll feel is mild compared to some of the effort involved in some of the above.
So is growing a ‘tasche a big deal? It is for me. This year I have a very good reason for wanting to adorn myself with some extra top-lip hair, you see Movember has just started supporting Men’s Mental Health.
Mental Health is, for most men, a big taboo subject; Men are bought up culturally to be tough; strong in body and in mind. Showing your emotions is generally considered to be weak, crying is for “girls”, even our language reflects this: “man-up” you’re told if you seem to be having a problem. There’s little wonder then that of the 1 in 4 adults who do suffer mental health problems then most keep it quiet, choosing to suffer in silence, never admitting they are struggling.
Certainly for my brother Steve this is the way he chose to deal with his issues, he’d been through a very difficult divorce and was in a bad place mentally. However on the surface, while you’d know he was fed up with it, you wouldn’t have known the turmoil in his mind. How depressed he was, how down he’d been in those months before we’ll never know because the first sign we had that he was struggling came in the most horrible and unexpected way: Steve chose to take his own life before admitting to those that loved him that he had a mental health problem.
Suicide isn’t a rational choice. You don’t weigh up the options. For people driven to the brink, and beyond, like Steve was then suicide seems like the only way out. However getting to that point doesn’t happen over night, it takes a long time.
If, as a society, we were more open about out mental health, and discussed our problems more openly – and accepted that it was alright for me to struggle with things – then we might have been able to help Steve. We might have been able to talk to him early on, he may have been willing to open up, to speak to a doctor, to get help. His kids might still have a father, his parents a Son, and me a Brother.
So next time you’re held up on a train after someone has gone onto the tracks, as I often am, don’t curse your bad luck, don’t think about that missed meeting or that you’ll be late to work. Take a minute to think about that person, it’s probably a man, they almost certainly have a family and friends who were there for them, there was almost certainly a point earlier on where they could have opened up about their issues to someone, if they’d hadn’t felt they’d have been judged. We as a society owe those people a debt, we need to help talk about mental health more openly.
It isn’t all about suicide, there’s plenty about mental health that needs research and help, and an openness and lack of discrimination.
So if you see me sporting my Mo, I do so to remember my true Mo Bro and it is a big deal, because I miss him, but I don’t want his death to be in vain.
I don’t need your money, I’ve already asked my friends for money for running a marathon and they supported me massively, this time it isn’t all about raising a fortune for me, I just want to be open. So let’s talk about mental health, and prostate and testicular cancer, and all the other men’s health issues that men find it hard to discuss and let’s change the world. We’ve got to start somewhere and today’s not a bad time and place.
Donations are still welcome, Movember is a great charity and you can sponsor here to show your support.
Thanks for reading, this is a difficult subject for me to discuss, and an emotional one. That doesn’t mean I’m not willing to discuss it though, when we meet and you see my Mo feel free to bring it up, that’s the point of the above isn’t it?