If it’s November, a lot of guys I know are growing mustaches. They may look ridiculous, and believe me when I share that many do, but they’re styling for men’s health and I applaud them.
For this autumn month, the Movember Foundation sponsors and provides the social media platform for charity fundraisers throughout the world, encouraging men to raise money from friends, colleagues and family in celebration of the designer facial hair they grow. Powered “by the mustache’s ability to generate a conversation,” Movember is about promoting awareness and raising research funds for men’s health, specifically prostate and testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.
From 30 friends inspired by a 2003 talk at a pub in Melbourne, Australia, to five million participants in over 20 countries in 2016, Movember has been named a “Top 100 Nongovernmental Organization.” None of the statistics and accolades matter to my friend Keith Mossberg. He wants to do some good (he does) and, laughably, thinks he looks awesome with a ’stache (he doesn’t).
Men are dying too young, and they aren’t talking to their friends about their health. Some 70 percent of men say their friends can rely on them for support, but only 48 percent say that they rely on their friends, Movember instructs. In other words: We’re here for our friends, but worried about asking for help for ourselves. That silence is costing lives.
Within the wider context of historical medical discrimination against women and ongoing health disparities in communities of color, talking plainly about men’s health is appropriate and refreshing. My daughter is already focusing on issues pertaining to women’s health, and I’d like my son to be similarly open about his health concerns and worries.
Social media helps, especially among younger men. Being able to post, promote and celebrate the fun of the effort makes the actual work of it—scheduling a doctor’s visit, talking about mental health, making healthy lifestyle decisions—much easier. Perhaps you’ve seen that old New Yorker cartoon that depicts the stages of life as “your doctor is older than you; you’re the same age as your doctor; your doctor is younger than you.” That kind of humor presupposes you’re making it to your doctor at all.
The folks at Movember have the statistics. When detected early, prostate cancer survival rates are better than 98 percent. Find it late, and those survival rates drop below 26 percent. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men aged 15-34 in the United States. One in four adults in the United States will experience a mental health problem in a given year, and three out of four suicides are committed by men. Clearly there is a need for more talk, and more outreach, concerning men’s health.
We need to slow down and take care. Addressing traffic safety on Route 17 headed up to the Catskills, Jewish and Yiddish newspapers used to promote a clever public-safety message: “Better Dr. Feinberg be late than the late Dr. Feinberg. Don’t drive tired; don’t rush; arrive alive.”
As we navigate through increasing professional, familial and personal demands and responsibilities, we’d do well to take that advice. Wherever you’re going, whoever you are or whomever you’re with, arrive alive.
Whether or not you’re growing a mustache this month—get checked; get screened; ask for help.