Men’s mental health is not a topic that is given a lot of attention in popular discussion. The month of “Movember,” founded by an Australian non-government organization in 2003 with the same name, focuses on raising awareness addressing issues that affect the health of men.

Part of Movember involves growing a mustache for charity, to attempt to “change the face of men’s health.” The organization and its participants raise money for prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and prevention of men’s suicide. Movember is an international organization, and the month is observed in locations all over the world.

At the University of Oregon, the Men’s Resource Center utilizes the month to provide contexts for men to engage with one another over a common activity or a discussion of the different facets of men’s health. Many men, especially young adult men, struggle with reflecting on the state of their health, both physically and mentally, and Movember can help illuminate participants on how to better address concepts regarding men’s health that they may have questions about.

There are many international men’s health trends and patterns that undeniably reveal unique challenges that they face. Globally, men have had a consistently lower life expectancy than women across time, which is suspected to result from a variety of factors. Men are more likely to be diagnosed with a disease due to their higher likelihood of abusing substances and leading a sedentary lifestyle. Men are nearly twice as likely to develop an alcohol use disorder than women, and this is supplemented by men’s higher likelihood to succumb to the pressure of peers involving substance use. The abuse of substances, for any individual, and mental health issues feed off of each other and simply promote one another and leads to the perpetuation of the difficulties that can be associated with each. Also playing into these trends includes the fact that men are less likely to ask for help or even share that they are feeling badly. Men are less likely to report that they are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or sad. Not facing these mental health issues can result in physical issues including higher blood pressure, heart problems, impotence, as well as reduced libido and fertility.

These cyclical patterns are a foundation for one of the most concerning phenomena regarding men’s health: globally, men are nearly twice as likely than women to die by suicide. Public awareness regarding this reality is lacking, and Movember attempts to shed light on the issue and communicate to men and all individuals alike that it does not have to be this way. Though women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to attempt successfully. Many factors can promote suicidal ideation within an individual, such as cultural or psychosocial factors, including unemployment and other occupational stressors. Men can also be victims of the ways in which they are socialized and brought up to act “like a man.” In attempting to act “like a man,” men may be more or less likely to ask for help when they are struggling in areas of their life. This is because many men consciously or subconsciously perceive the act of being vulnerable or seeking help to be emasculating or feminine. These trends have led to depression being significantly underdiagnosed in male populations, which leads to reduced amounts of research and understanding in terms of how depression appears in men. Warning signs for suicidality in men can vary in terms of how they manifest. Suicidal thoughts and depression may be released or addressed through anger, hostility, or irritability directed outward from the suicidal man. Behaviors such as increased rates of risk-taking and avoidance may also appear more frequently in male populations.

These statistics and trends may reflect a current reality, but that does not mean they are preventable or avoidable through efforts to better understand the male experience and tailoring specific approaches to supporting and engaging with men.

How do you care for yourself as a man? How do you recognize warning signs within yourself?

  • Learn the warning signs, like the ones detailed here, for how health concerns manifest in men so that you can seek support early.
  • Act before things become unbearable. If you find yourself secluding or treating yourself and others in uncharacteristic ways, these may be indicators that therapeutic intervention could be beneficial.
  • Find a group of people that supports you in the ways you feel are necessary for personal growth and success. This is massively beneficial to better understanding yourself and what you want out of relationships with others.
  • Take the initiative to consider and evaluate aspects of yourself that interfere with seeking support and treatment. This can help you avoid choices that only further your struggle.
  • Have patience with yourself, your desires, your needs, and your feelings. This can help you understand the best ways to feel better in moments when you are struggling.
  • Realize that you are not alone with your pain. There are others in the world and even in your life that are going through or have gone through similar experiences and felt similar feelings to what you have and do feel.

How do you care for other men? What should you keep in mind when faced with a vulnerable man?

  • Be patient and appropriately curious when faced with a man attempting to open up, be vulnerable, or share a potentially emotional experience with you.
  • Keep the conversation focused on the person sharing. Be mindful not to shift the focus on yourself. 
  • Validate their feelings, do not downplay or rationalize them. Make them know they are being heard by telling them it is OK that they are feeling this way.
  • Practice active listening skills by maintaining eye contact, positioning toward them, and providing input on their words when appropriate.
  • Share resources and options for next steps.

The month of Movember presents an opportunity to not only shine a light on struggles that men face in the contemporary world, but also to put on display the positive qualities that define them. It is important for men to consider what they enjoy about being men and what being a man means to them. Reflecting on your conceptions of masculinity and manhood, regardless of gender, is essential in better understanding how to support men in your life.

It is also important to understand that the skills detailed above do not only pertain to supporting men; understanding how to exercise your empathy can be hugely beneficial when supporting someone of any gender.

Adam Bernard
Senior, majoring in psychology
Counseling Services Student Advisory Board (SAB)