The state of men’s health is in crisis. Men experience worse longer-term health than women and die on average six years earlier. Prostate cancer rates will double in the next 15 years. It is the second most common cancer in men, and rates are on the rise. By 2030 there will be 1.7 million men living with prostate cancer.
Testicular cancer rates have already doubled in the last 50. Three quarters of suicides are men. Poor mental health leads to half a million men taking their own life every year. That’s one every minute.
This is why I mo. I’m 46. I’ve had a minor health scare this year. Tests have returned relatively normal (genetics continues to haunt my cholesterol level, PSA great, liver working a bit harder than it should); but I have to change some “habits”.
I have to stay fit and healthy. I have to keep my weight down - I just don’t need to scare the doctor about rapid weight loss. Ok, taking a group of Grade 9 boys on a 20km hike and losing 3.5 kg might be a bit excessive.
During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces (supported by their Mo Sistas (female supporters)) in Australia and around the world. There is a serious side to the Mo growing. The money raised goes to support and raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health. In 2016, Mo Bros and Mo Sistas from across Australia helped raise $22.6 Million for the Movember Foundation. 83.9% of funds raised are allocated to men’s health programs. The Movember community championed men’s health in 21 countries across the world. Through the growth of more than half a million moustaches, $80 million was raised.
The focus for funding, as it was in previous years, is for prostate and testicular cancer research along with mental health awareness campaigns. They are committed to raising awareness on the dangers of physical inactivity and investing in initiatives that encourage physical activity. Physical inactivity is a big deal. It’s the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, causing 3.2 million deaths globally per year.
I am overwhelmed each year by the donations and the jibes I get from my fellow staff and the students I teach. The question I am often asked is, “Why?”
Men need to take control of their health. They need to have conversations about their well-being. It is about educating and empowering men when it comes to their health. The casual discussion about moustache growth can easily and effectively turn into a conversation about men’s health.
Each Movember I literally become a walking and talking billboard for men’s health. It creates authentic conversations and the literature Movember post on their website, communicates the health messages in a way that is meaningful to men, their family and their peers. On a personal level, it gets me to “take a good, hard look at myself” and I become more engaged with my own health.
I think about the areas of my physical, social, spiritual and emotional health that need preventative action. According to Movember research, Movember participants spend more time thinking about improving their health, visiting a doctor or discussing their health with others as a result of the Movember campaign each year.
Movember provides a simple strategy for men. They are strategies we ALL can do to take control of our health. Why not get that special man or special men your life to do the same?
1. Make man time
Stay connected. Your mates are important and spending time with them is good for you. Catch up regularly, check in and make time.
70% of men say their friends can rely on them for support, but only 48% say that they rely on their friends. In other words: we’re here for our mates, but worried about asking for help for ourselves. Reaching out is crucial.
2. Have open conversations
You don’t need to be an expert and you don’t have to be the sole solution, but being there for someone, listening and giving your time can be life-saving.
3. Know the numbers.
At 50, talk to your doctor about prostate cancer and whether it’s right for you to have a PSA test. If you are of African or Caribbean descent or have a father or brother with prostate cancer, you should be having this conversation at 45. Know your numbers, know your risk, talk to your doctor.
4. Know thy nuts. Simple.
Get to know what’s normal for your testicles. Give them a check regularly and go to the doctor if something doesn’t feel right.
5. Move, more.
Add more activity to your day. Do more of what makes you feel good.
- Take a walking meeting
- Park further away from the station
- Get off the bus a stop or two earlier
- Instead of the lift, take the stairs
- Cycle to work instead of driving
I appreciate the chance to raise the issues, encourage the conversations and weather the storm of ridicule and giggles. I appreciate the chance to talk to the men I work with about their health.
To discuss with other men on staff and with students in my school about the joys and struggles of marriage and raising kids allows me to realise I am not alone. This great cause brings to the forefront of my mind, for one month every year, the fact I am not bulletproof.
Movember fights the good fight. It is changing the face of MY health. It is having an impact.
Why not encourage the men in your life to head to the doctor and let this year be the start of their annual check up?
I’ve had mine this year- now over to you!
If you notice something, do something!
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin’s archive of previous article can be found at