By Fraser MacDonald-Lister, Analyst, Human Capital, and Jack Hilton, Consultant, Enterprise Technology and Performance
December is upon us and, around the world, thousands of men are left with cold upper lips where a charity moustache once grew. Movember, the leading global organisation committed to changing the face of men’s health, is about much more than just facial hair and fundraising, they are working around the world to grow awareness of prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.1 This year, more than 150 Mo Bros, Sistas and Supporters from Deloitte UK took part in the follicular festivities, raising awareness and funds for the charity whilst sparking many conversations across the virtual office.
Be a man of more words
The importance of these conversations cannot be understated. At the end of March, researchers from the University of Sheffield and Ulster University reported that following the first national lockdown in response to COVID-19 the number of people reporting significant levels of depression and anxiety had risen.2 Furthermore, the onset of a second national lockdown coincided with loneliness across the country reaching record levels.3 The combination of enforced social isolation and economic uncertainty threaten to create a perfect storm affecting mental health, and it is of the upmost importance that we talk about how we are feeling.
While we have all felt the impact of social distancing from our friends, families and colleagues, research suggests that men will be particularly afflicted. In the UK, suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 50.4 Three out of four suicides are men, and for every suicide, there are over 20 attempts. Talking is often the first step to accepting and addressing poor mental health. In the ‘new normal’ of virtual social connection, men need to make even more of an effort to stay in touch and maintain vital friendships. This year, Movember has encouraged men to “be a man of more words”.5 Indeed, by taking part in Movember, our colleagues at Deloitte encouraged men to talk about the issues affecting them, with charity moustaches on Zoom calls giving us all a reason to smile despite the colder weather and longer nights.
Move for Movember
One way in which the charity has promoted both physical and mental wellbeing during the lockdown is through the Move for Movember campaign. Mo Bros, Sistas and Supporters set themselves targets for physical activity and gathered sponsorship as motivation to reach them. Whether walking, running, swimming or cycling, many of our colleagues got moving to raise money for the mighty Mo. The benefits of this went beyond fundraising or fitness; team members on one project reported that they had got to know each other better, and forged stronger relationships despite working virtually, because of sharing their “moves” and wellbeing top-tips.
The work Movember has done reaching millions of men over the past 17 years shows that men find it easier to open up when they are standing shoulder to shoulder. While the coronavirus pandemic presents an obvious challenge to supporting one another in such close proximity, that should not stop us from meeting up for socially distanced outdoor activities over the winter vacation. Even a simple walk together can be enough to spark an important conversation about how someone is feeling, fending off the loneliness that winter months can bring.
Being a ‘man of more words’ can start with a simple chat. We all need to learn to be men of more words. If you think a friend or colleague could be going through a tough time, starting a conversation is as simple as ALEC:
- A – Ask how he’s feeling and mention any changes you’ve picked up on.
- L – Listen, giving him your full attention without judgement or distraction.
- E – Encourage action and explore any options that might be open to him.
- C – Check in with a follow-up conversation to see if he’s doing any better.6
While this framework, developed by R U OK?, was intended for conversations about mental health, the principles can be applied to other difficult conversations about health.7 Movember also funds research into prostate and testicular cancer, two conditions that men may be less likely to go to the doctor about given the COVID-19 pandemic. With 1 in 8 men diagnosed in their lifetime, and 9.9 million globally living with and beyond the disease, prostate cancer is as sizeable an issue for men as breast cancer is for women.8 Likewise, many people don’t realise that testicular cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in young men, or know how to perform a testicular self-examination.9 Throughout the winter months and beyond, we need to talk about these issues, and we can use ALEC as a starting point to ask the men in our lives about their health.
Now that December has arrived and the moustaches have been shaved, you would be forgiven for thinking that the Movember campaign is over. In fact, for many people, it is only just beginning. Movember 2020 has been a catalyst for conversations not only within Deloitte, but also across the world. Both men and women alike have been prompted to share how they are feeling and support one another. We need to keep talking, we need to keep moving, and as men, we need to be men of more words. Throughout the winter vacation, it is especially important to check in with friends, family and colleagues. Talking really does save lives and, together, we can stop men dying too young.
1 Movember. See also: https://uk.movember.com/about/foundation
2 Sheffield University, ‘Depression and anxiety spiked after lockdown announcement, coronavirus mental health study shows’, March 31, 2020.
3 BBC, ‘Lockdown loneliness reaches record levels’, November 18, 2020.
4 Ruth Sutherland, ‘Tackling the root causes of suicide’ August 1, 2020.
5 Movember, ‘Be a man of more words’, September 9, 2018.
6 Movember, ‘Converstaions’.
7 R U OK?, ‘Using ALEC to provide relationship support’, November 7, 2018.
8 Movember, ‘Prostate Cancer’.
9 Movember, ‘Testicular self-examination’.