Why I Campaign to Raise Awareness for Men's Health: The Inspiring Women Behind the Movember Movement
For the past few years, you may have noticed that when November rolls around, guys you know start to look a bit... hairier — specifically in the upper-lip region.
That's probably because they're participating in mustache proliferation: Growing out their facial hair from the first of the month for the Movember Foundation and raising awareness for men's health, shining a light on issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health, and physical inactivity.
Since 2003, millions of people have joined the foundation's efforts to raise more than $650 million to fund 1,000+ health programs.
It will come as no surprise that behind the scenes, the Movember Foundation is run by a passionate group of individuals, many of whom have been personally touched by men's health issues and subsequently inspired to do something about it. Ahead of Movember 2015, we talked to six inspiring women who are leaders in the Movember Foundation, on why men's health matters to them. Here's what they had to say.
"Despite the silence, this is happening all around us." — Amy Fitzhenry, legal counsel
I joined the Movember team several years ago, the first year that the U.S. team started to expand into the mental health space. This meant a lot to me as my birth father suffers from bipolar disorder, also known as manic depressive illness, which has led to some really tough life events for him and virtually zero involvement in my life, the very sad effects of his untreated mental illness. To me, more than anything else, Movember is about spreading awareness about men's mental health issues. It is especially difficult for men to say out loud: I am depressed, I have anxiety, I need help. Yet, despite the silence, this is happening all around us. Working at Movember is a daily reminder that when it comes to men's health, physical or mental, communication is required and sharing is key, because truthfully we have no idea how much everyone else is really going through it, until we talk about it.
"My dad was my hero." —Leslie Elison, events manager
When I was 14, I lost my dad very suddenly and unexpectedly. At the age of 48 he went into cardiac arrest and passed away, something that quite honestly could have been prevented if he had taken better care of himself. Losing my dad has been the single most devastating moment of my life. To feel that kind of pain is not something that I would ever wish another person to have to endure. I go to work every day with the hope that by creating experiences for people in a fun and unintimidating environment, it will encourage and inspire individuals to have important conversations about their health. My dad was my hero; I absolutely idolized him. His life and his loss, have very much shaped who I am and drives me every single day.
"We are a team." —Erica Graham, director of partnerships
As a newlywed with a baby on the way, the Movember Foundation could not be timelier and personally important to me. As my husband and I start a family, I want to be sure that he is healthy, stays well, and takes preventive action for his health—we are a team and it is incredibly important for us to both stay healthy so that we can take this life journey together. This little baby doesn't know it yet, but he or she is pretty lucky to have such an amazing father to be, and we can't wait to create so many wonderful memories together. Not to mention, I want to be sure our child has many years with grandfathers, uncles, and friends on both sides, many moments and opportunities to learn from the smart, intelligent, and caring men that this baby will have in his or her life.
"I know the work we're doing is redefining the status quo." —Kellie Paich, TrueNTH Program Lead — International Network and USA
I've worked with prostate cancer patients and their families for almost 10 years. Through listening, learning, and observing I've seen how intimate the side effects of prostate cancer are for thousands of men. Not just for a man himself but his partner, his sons and daughters, his community. Through our investments, Movember is redefining the way men with prostate cancer and their families learn about and manage prostate cancer. Every day with Movember I know that the work we're doing is redefining the status quo, improving people's lives, working with the best people along the way, and having fun doing it.
"The fact is, the state of men's health is in crisis." —Lisa Potter, director of marketing and communications
I support Movember for the great loves of my life: my sweet daddy, who passed away entirely too soon in 2008, my supportive husband, who will grow his seventh Movember mustache this year, and my son, a precocious three-nager who equally idolizes Elsa and Ironman. Growing up in the South, I was lucky to be part of a gregarious, loving extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and non-blood related “kin” (loose term; includes most of Hokes Bluff, Alabama). While we were close and saw each other often, there were certain things that were never openly discussed. Physical health issues were minimized, mental health issues were never addressed, and any topic considered negative or awkward had to be swept, quickly and permanently, under the rug. Even now, I started to write about some of my dad’s specific health issues, but deleted it, afraid it would have caused embarrassment to him, if he were alive. These ingrained stigmas clearly run very deep. The fact is, the state of men’s health is in crisis. On average, men die six years earlier than women. Three-quarters of suicides are men. Prostate cancer affects 1 in 7, and testicular cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in young men ages 15 to 34. Movember gives us all a reason to start talking, communicating, and saying what needs to be said. As awkward as it feels, starting a conversation about men’s health can save lives. So, here goes… my father was a prostate cancer survivor and passed away from Congestive Heart Failure, despite eating healthy and daily workouts. My family health history includes heart disease, thyroid disease, alcoholism, and mental illness.
"Rallying people together for social good is meaningful work." —Katelynn Whitaker, content/social manager
It's amazing to work in an environment where colleagues feel like friends and extended family. At the Movember Foundation everyone is driving toward one goal — to change the face of men’s health. We’re collaborative, supportive and innovative. As a millennial newer to the workforce, I couldn’t ask for a more energizing or relevant job. Getting to share what I do with my actual friends and family, have them grow mustaches and talk about men’s health, is very powerful. Rallying people together for social good is meaningful work.
For more information on Movember, check out the Movember Foundation's website.
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Photo Credit: Laura Ruth via Getty Images