What is Movember, and Why Is it Important? Here’s What to Know

This month marks the twentieth annual celebration of Movember, also commonly known as “No-shave November.” Since 2003, the Movember Foundation has promoted November as an annual month of increased awareness of serious health issues affecting men, including testicular and prostate cancers, depression, and suicidal ideation. These are all wonderful and important causes, of course, but what do they have to do with letting your mustache and beard grow? This article will take a look at the basics of what happens during Movember and why this movement is so important. I’ll also explain how getting a little hairier can help save a life—maybe even yours!

What is Movember?

handsome big moustache hipster man smoking pipe in the city

What is Movember? Let’s read more! (Source: Shutterstock)

What’s up with a month of no facial grooming, and why do participants call it Movember? The name “Movember” is a portmanteau of “mo,” an Australian slang word for mustache, and “November”—I suppose “Goatee-vember” isn’t as catchy. Since its formation in 2003, the Movember Foundation has raised over a billion dollars for men’s health initiatives, including increased awareness of cancers that specifically affect men. These include prostate cancer and testicular cancer, both of which have excellent survival rates— especially with early detection and treatment. By making the average guy more aware of his below-the-belt health, the Movember movement intends to knock out deaths from these treatable cancers.

The Movember movement also aims to address men’s mental health issues, like depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation, among many others. A poll of 1000 men conducted by Priory, the U.K.-based mental healthcare provider, found that 77% of men believe they’ve suffered from a condition like depression or anxiety. The same study found that 40% of men have never spoken to anyone about their mental health. Although we as a society have come a long way in ending the stigma surrounding mental health, many men still feel embarrassed or ashamed to speak openly about their concerns. The Movember Foundation encourages men to check in on one another and to ask for support when it’s needed.

These are fantastic goals, but what’s the deal with the mustaches and other facial hair? Well, much like the ALS ice bucket challenge that went viral back in 2014, they’re an easy and visible symbol of the movement. The idea is that when a habitually clean-shaven guy lets his ‘stache grow in, his buddies and coworkers ask why, and he shares a little about Movember. This could encourage one of his friends to make that prostate cancer screening appointment he’s been putting off or to check on his neighbor, who seems lonely and isolated. The core idea here is that kindness and love are contagious. When one guy donates to a men’s charity or speaks candidly about mental health care, it encourages those around him to do the same, and from there, the movement grows.

The Movember Rules

Do you or someone you know want to participate in Movember this year? The rules of the event are simple and flexible—remember, it’s not a test or a competition, simply a movement for the greater good. To get started, you’ll need to create an account on the Movember Foundation page or download its free app. From there, you’ll set up your personal “Mo” profile and get ready to stash your razor in the bottom drawer until December arrives. As you grow your ‘stache, you’re encouraged to raise funds for Movember’s men’s health initiatives and to post about your activism on your social media channels. Don’t worry. You’re not doing it simply to brag about your charitable giving—raising awareness helps to spread the message, and it’s an important one. So post that selfie with your new facial hair (and remind your dad and brother to go for their regular cancer screening while you’re at it).

The Movember Foundation makes it easy to donate your time and money or to start a mini-movement of your own. For example, you can walk or run 60 miles in memory of the 60 men who die by suicide every hour. Not much of a runner? You can hike, swim,  or do whatever appeals to you as part of Mo Your Own Way—it’s a great opportunity to break a bad habit like smoking or physical inactivity. You can even bring Movember to your workplace as a group bonding activity. As long as you’re having fun and taking care of yourself, there’s no wrong way to Mo. By the way, the ladies (and other non-moustache-growers) in your life are always welcome to participate in the activities too.

Men’s Mental Health Awareness

One of the most important causes championed by the Movember Foundation and its participants is improving men’s mental health. In recent years, it’s become much less taboo to discuss your own mental health, whether you’re experiencing mild work-related stress or something far more serious, like a depressive episode. But for all the progress we’ve made, many men are still reluctant to articulate their mental health struggles to professionals or their loved ones. The Movember movement aims to change that through awareness and multiple avenues of support. Do you know someone who seems like he might be struggling in silence? Here’s a quick primer on how to check in with him in a way that makes him feel safe and validated. Is it you who needs someone to talk to? The Movember Foundation has compiled a fantastic list of resources for immediate mental health support.

Life is a beautiful gift—but it can, at times, be stressful, overwhelming, and sad. If you’ve been feeling like you’re unable to cope with things on your own, please know that you don’t have to. You’re not alone in what you’re going through, and there are good people (and capable experts) who want to help you reach a happier and healthier state of mind. It doesn’t make you weak or a failure—asking for support when you need it means you are strong, with a high degree of emotional intelligence.

This Movember, let’s all make a point of checking in on one another and on ourselves. The world will be a better place for it!