Looking downright silly for a very good cause.
It has been pretty quiet in Connecticut. Work has been slowly moving along, and outside of that it has been a case of training for rugby, playing rugby, watching rugby, including out-singing everyone else in the bar when it comes to the national anthems, as was the case in the Scotland v Australia game this morning.
However, I have also been gearing up to take part in this year’s Movember campaign. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Movember is an international event in which guys grow a moustache (no beards allowed) over the month of November, in order to raise awareness and money for supporting men’s health initiatives ranging from prostate and testicular cancer through to depression and anxiety.
I’m trying to raise $1,000 this time around. I’m also getting some of my fellow rugby players to join in on the action and sport some dirty mos for the final few games of the season.
You can donate to the campaign at my page here.
As well as growing some facial hair, I will be participating in the Move Challenge as well, in which participants have to undertake some form of physical activity every day in November. The benefits of physical exercise on mental health are well documented, but encouraging regular exercise is a great cause in itself.
This will be the third time I’ve participated, which in itself is kind of funny. You see, I can’t grow a proper moustache at all. Yeah, there’s hair there, but it grows slowly and sporadically, and I end up looking like a fifteen year old boy who’s just got his first facial hair and wants to show off his “mature man look” to everyone. Seriously, I get asked for ID more often when I’m growing a moustache.
The silliness doesn’t stop there. A few years ago, I did Movember in the lead up to the Canberra Opera’s production of Donizetti’s “L’Elisir D’Amore”. My character (Belcore) was the kind of guy who would rock a spiffy moustache, so it fitted in perfectly. We went into dress rehearsals just before the month ended, and I was feeling pretty good on the moustache front… until I got into makeup. The makeup artist took one look, said “Oh honey, you tried”, then whipped out an eyebrow pen and began to scribble colour on my upper lip. It was a pretty sad moment.
So why bother growing one then? Why not throw some money across and be done with it? Why come back and make a fool of oneself?
Because it matters personally. Mental health is an issue that is very close to me. Too close. I’ve been through depression and anxiety, and it’s not something I would wish on anyone. Members of my family have gone through their own battles with depression, and it’s been heartbreaking to watch. And some of my friends, torn up by their own inner turmoil, have committed suicide because they felt there was no other way out of their struggles.
There is another way out.
Support is available. Whether it's through exercise and mindfulness, engaging with mental health professionals, or getting medical treatment. However, not everyone has access to the support that they need, or worse, feel as if asking for that support will impact their friendships, their job prospects, or their finances. For men it can be difficult to make the step and ask for help, especially in cultures where such behaviour is often touted as a sign of weakness.
This has to change.
Initiatives like Movember (and others such as BeyondBlue and the Black Dog Institute) are working hard to support research into mental health treatment, and to provide support services that can make positive impacts to the lives of men and women.
It’s also particularly poignant for me to participate this year. Those who are close to me know that I have been going through a pretty rough period in my life on a number of fronts, and it has been hard to stay on top of things emotionally. I'm coping and moving in the right direction, but it has taken a lot of work on my part, keeping to a regimen of exercise and mindfulness to retain a stable perspective. It's also taken a fair amount of support from friends and family for which I am so deeply grateful.
However, not everyone has access to that sort of support, and not everyone has the tools at their disposal to deal with the emotional and mental challenges that life throws their way.
That’s why we need to give them that support.
So if a little silliness in the form of a terrible moustache can encourage others to lend their support, then all the better. Over the next month and a half, I’ll be spamming social media, hitting up friends and family, and chronicling my progress weekly on the blog (with horrible facial hair selfies).
You can join in the action too.
You can make a donation here, or better yet, sign up to grow a moustache or do the Move Challenge (men and women are both welcome).
As my rugby coach reminds us, “TEAM” stands for “Together Everyone Achieves More”. Together, we can achieve a lot for mental health.
Postscript: If you’re going through depression or anxiety (and 1 in 5 people will do so during their lifetime), there are resources that you can use to get support. There are some great resources here that can help. And if you need to talk to someone, this site provides a service where you can chat with a trained person right away. You can get through this.
Observations on music, coffee, and the occasional controversial thought.
Copyright © Gerard Atkinson 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the owner is strictly prohibited.