Movember is upon us once again.

It feels weird to say but Movember has increasingly become a bigger and bigger part of my life. This all steamed from being in college and deciding to give the mustache a try. The next year I was informed of Movember, the charity so I said to myself “Hey, why not do some good while looking like a creep this year!”. I raised a whopping $20, but at least it was something right? I continued on the next year, but this time I started a team at work to have some fun, and make it a bit more competitive. From 2011 – 2014 we raised a collective $2,770, not a huge amount by any means but it was still something. 

Over the years people would ask me, “So why are you raising money for Movember?” I never really had an answer; it was just a fun thing to do. I was asked this many times, so I figured I would do some research into what the organization did, and where that money goes.

Much of the money they raise goes towards research for a cure to prostate and testicular cancer. Now, I don’t have family that’s had testicular cancer, nor do I know any one with prostate cancer but I can support any organization that helps fund this type of research. This however was not my main motivator, it’s one of the organizations other initiatives that really resonated with me. (Click here to learn more about the Movember initiative)

Movember is also intended to raise awareness for men’s mental health. Which to me, is a HUGE deal, that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. 
Between 2007 and 2011: 
4,630 Females took their own life. The average suicide rate was 5.42% (per 10,000). Absolutely tragic, but what is really shocking is when you compare this to males.
At the same time 14,255 males committed suicide at a rate of 17.06%(per 10,000).  (Via Stats Canada)

3 times as many Males committed suicide in the same 5-year span than Females. Both are absolutely terrifying but why are Men more susceptible than Women?

Now before I get into this, I’m in no way, shape or form a psychologist. This is all my own opinion and views on this issue. If you have your own leave a comment below and let it be known. I’ve developed these views from my own personal experiences and nothing else, so take it for a grain of salt. While I deeply care about my female counter parts, this blog is more focused on the males and I don’t mean to demean or offend any women out there as each human life is as valuable as the next.

My Take: Being A Man
Men’s mental health a massive issue in our society today, that rarely gets brought up. In mainstream and social media I’ve seen plenty of images or videos that relate to fixing the issue of women’s body image issues. By comparison, when was the last time you’ve seen a image of males in the same way as the picture (to the right)? Yes, Women have been dealt a really crappy hand when it comes to the media coverage, but over the last few years more and more women are coming out, opposing and protesting the negative images they see in magazines, movies and TV.

Males? Not so much. Just as much as unrealistic pictures of women grace the covers of all the popular magazines, there are just as many unrealistic pictures of men as well. We see women swooning over Mark Walberg, Chris Hemsworth and Brad Pitt, but where are the ‘everyday’ looking men? “Dad-Bod” was a thing for awhile, but you wouldn’t see that on anything but a celebrity gossip magazines. More so, males that are on the bigger side are always portrayed as the comedic relief or as the nerd/loser in Hollywood, again helping stereotype these individuals in a certain way. Even when a heavier actor gets a big staring role you can regularly see them change their body composition (Ex. Chris Pratt, Seth Rogan, etc.) So where are the men standing up for their own body image?

Growing Up When you think of being a dad, how do you imagine that image? Well, for me I think of the stereotypical dad on TV, sitting on his chair reading a newspaper with a beer who is there to keep the kids in line and bring home the bread for the family. Is it accurate to everyone? Absolutely not, but if this is what we are raised to see, what do you think we are going to do when we have children?

The fact is, we as males are just doing what we were taught as children to do. Staying quiet, take it on the chin and just deal with it. Not getting emotional, not expressing how you feel about it, but “man up” and deal with it. Whether we learn that from our own family, someone else family or simply on a TV show, this message is all around us. Think for a second, who are the coolest superheroes? Did you choose someone who is a “great team player” or “are really in touch with their feelings”? There is a reason Batman is one of the most popular hero’s, he’s someone capable of doing it all and doing it by himself. Who wouldn’t want to be able to do it all?

When life issues arise, Male have a tendency to fall back into this thought process, regardless of the support system they have. You don’t see many males going out for coffee to chat about their relationship, and helping each other emotionally like most Women do. Men try to bottle these emotions up to deal with them alone, with an underlying feeling of discomfort to discuss issues openly and a fear of being persecuted, laughed at and put down for opening up to male colleagues. For most Men, if a person is to see them cry is an embarrassment. Crying means you are weak, inferior or you can’t handle something. If Men try to express their emotions they are told to “Be a Man” and to stop being “girly” or “gay” (as if either of these are negative things). Males are pressured by women, friends and family to “be manly”, be strong, be the provider and be the stonewall people need. The same thought process apply when men ask for help, to ask for help is one of the most difficult things to do because now you are admitting you can’t do something, when it’s our gender stereotype of have all the answers and to be able to do anything. So guess what happens? Men don’t ask for help.

Body Image These days everyone is getting in shape. Since the movie “300” came out many men have began to  hit the gym with the goal of having huge muscles, ripped abs and look just like Leonidas. Every actor is bulking up or getting shredded to become a superhero in the next blockbuster movie, every athlete looks and performs like a real life superhero, and images of these body transformations are everywhere. Where are the “Weight is just a number” photos for men? The men that have an extra few pounds feel intimidated to go to the gym, with fear of being judged by men and women who already are in shape. For women, they have women’s only gyms. Men don’t have a place to hide.

Now imagine a guy who has struggled with how he looks for years, trying to go to the gym for the first time and seeing other men, who are in far better shape laughing at him because of his size or not knowing what to do with different equipment. This is a fear of many males who have never stepped foot in a fitness facility. I’ve been in public fitness facilities, and they are intimidating. I’ve been physically active since I was very young and I like to consider myself as a pretty fit person, but stepping inside of a gym is scary. It feels as if everyone is looking, or judging and I can only imagine that feeling being double for someone with body image issues. Some people will chose to just simply be inactive rather than go to a gym, start a fitness routine or ask for help once they are done.

Over the years in the personal training industry I’ve noticed that the male body image is a large issue when it comes to men’s mental health. If someone is made to feel bad about their body by some outside source, they devalue themselves. The major problem comes back to the fact men simply do NOT talk about these issues or ask for help when they are suffering through different life events.

Again, I’m not an expert, I’m barely even a poor writer who can string along a consistent thought (have you noticed some scrambled thoughts, piss poor grammar and an excessive amount of commas?) but this is an issue that comes down to one main problem. The lack of communication men have about how they feel. It’s almost a mental block for a male to even bring up different issues. Guys, when was the last time something shitty happened in your day and your significant other asked “how was your day?” and you just said “good”. When was the last time you talk to the guys about an issue you were having outside of work?

So what can we do?
To simply put it, if you have any issue in your life, no matter how big or small, the best way to deal with is to talk about it. I know that generalizes a massive issue into one seemingly simple solution, but that’s where I believe it all begins, admitting there is a problem and asking for help. Whether it’s talking to your significant other, your parents, your siblings, best friends, whoever it might be, just talk to someone. If they don’t respond positively or really show much interest, then that person shouldn’t be in your life.

Another strategy that can be used, and is often under-utilized for people struggling with mental health is starting a journal; write down how your day went. What went well, and what wasn’t so good? Writing it down gives you a chance to self reflect, it lets you see where the root of the issue is coming from. Some times when you write something down, you’ll realize you’re stressed about something that you shouldn’t even be worried about.

Whatever way we help ourselves get through our mental issues, finding help is the most important thing. I understand that there are many factors when it comes to mental health, and we can’t help everyone but we have to try. Depression and mental health are serious issues that are affecting both younger and older men more and more and if left untreated suicide rates will continue to rise.

Rich Hill

CSEP – Certified Personal Trainer

RK Athletics – https://linktr.ee/RK_Athletics