For more than a decade, Movember has been raising awareness and much-needed funds for men’s health issues.

It all started in 2003 when two friends from Melbourne, Australia, were having a quiet beer. Their conversation turned to recurring fashion trends. They noted the moustache, a fixture in past decades, was nowhere to be seen. They joked about bringing it back. They decided to talk anyone who’d listen into growing a moustache. Inspired by a friend’s mom who was fundraising for breast cancer at the time, they decided to make their efforts about men’s prostate cancer. They designed the rules of Movember and agreed to charge ten dollars to grow a moustache. They found 30 guys willing to take up the challenge. This small idea quickly grew into a men’s health movement of more than five million supporters around the globe. Movember has funded over 1,250 men’s health projects across 20 countries, such as TrueNTH Prostate Cancer and TrueNTH Testicular Cancer, which put tools like decision support, lifestyle management, and symptom tracking into the hands of men who need it.

This is my ninth year growing a ‘stache and raising funds for Movember. The source of my motivation is mutli-fold. First, it is a great opportunity to raise much-needed funds in support innovative projects across prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health. Around the world, men die on average six years younger than women and for largely preventable reasons. Movember is working to reach the following goals:

  • By 2030, reduce the number of men dying prematurely by 25%.
  • Halve the number of deaths from prostate cancer and testicular cancer
  • Reduce the rate of male suicides by 25%
  • Halve the number of men experiencing serious mental and physical side- effects from treatment of prostate cancer or testicular cancer.

Second, Movember prompts important conversations about men’s health, encouraging men to understand the health risks they face, talk more openly about their health, and to take action when necessary. I particularly appreciate the power of these conversations to break down stigmas associated to mental illness. I am a police officer. My profession is disproportionately affected by mental illness. Police are influenced by broader societal attitudes and prejudices associated with mental illness, but police culture can further contribute to that stigma. In a work environment that emphasizes toughness and stoicism, mental illness can be perceived as a weakness. Officers with mental illness may face bullying and isolation. Witnessing such behaviours can prevent other officers from discussing their own mental health struggles for fear it will have negative professional consequences. It can also prevent them from getting the care and support that they need. Addressing stigma through open dialogue is crucial for improving how police and society at large respond to mental illness.

Last but not least, Movember is fun! Many folks look great with a moustache. I am not one of them. Peril and my girls remind me of this throughout November. For instance, on day one of my ‘stache this year, my six-year-old, Audrey, donned a blanket over her face at dinner in order to save herself from the apparent grooming dumpster fire that was my upper lip. I must admit, I get a kick out of such reactions. What’s more, I have found it to be a great way to strengthen camaraderie with friends, peers, colleagues who have also worked up the courage to grow a ‘stache.

I have mentioned the power of conversations. I’d be remiss not to use the Empower Blog to share some information. Here are five things I hope everyone takes away from this post about men’s health (yes, you too ladies; we all know the power you have over the men folk!):

  1. MAKE MAN TIME – Stay connected. Spending time with your friends is good for you. Catch up regularly, check in and make time.
  2. HAVE OPEN CONVERSATIONS – Talk about what’s really going on. Listen. Being there for someone can be lifesaving.
  3. KNOW THE NUMBERS; LEARN THEM, LIVE THEM, AND PASS THEM ALONG – At 50, talk to your doctor about prostate cancer. If you’re of African or Caribbean descent, or have a family history of prostate cancer, have the conversation at 45.
  4. KNOW THY NUTS – In Canada, testicular cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in young men. The best thing you can do for your testicles s give them a bit of feel each month or so, and if something doesn’t seem right, head to the doctor.
  5. MOVE MORE – Physical inactivity is a big deal (I realize I am preaching to the choir on this one). It’s the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, causing 3.2 million deaths globally per year. Get active on a daily basis. Do more of what makes you feel good. We all understand the physical benefits of exercise but sometimes fail to appreciate its potential to improve mental health.

    As mentioned, this is my ninth year participating in Movember. I’ve set a fundraising goal of $1,000. With your generosity, I hope to crush it. Help me change the face of men’s health. Make a donation at my fundraising page Thanks everyone!