2003: the year the M6 Toll opened, Mick Jagger received a knighthood, and two friends – Travis Garone and Luke Slattery – were having a beer in a bar in Melbourne, Australia, lamenting the fact that moustaches had been all but left behind by the fashion industry.
In an effort to resurrect the tache, Travis and Luke convinced 30 guys to take part in a challenge to grow a moustache for 30 days. What started as a bit of fun between two friends, is now one of the world’s most popular men’s health fundraising movements, with more than five million ‘Mo Bros’ taking part in Movember each year – the campaign funding breakthrough research by challenging participants to grow a sponsored moustache throughout the month of November
The Movember Foundation is more than a charity, it’s a movement of “bros” standing up for their friends’, fathers’, brothers’, partners’, and their own wellbeing. While the foundation runs awareness and fundraising activities throughout the year, the pinnacle of the movement is in November, with the annual Movember campaign, that challenges men to grow moustaches in 30 days.
Since it began, the Movember Foundation has enjoyed incredible success – funding more than 1,200 breakthrough men’s health projects in 20 different countries. What’s undeniable is that the Movember Foundation has a unique charm for a charity, and this charm is capturing the imagination of its millions of supporters. But what is it about the campaign that makes it so popular?
The Movember Foundation CEO, Owen Sharpe, tells us it’s down to three core things: “Firstly, Movember is all about men’s health, and we all have men in our lives that we care about. It is also because Movember creates a sense of fun and community across a whole month and beyond – people love the brand, and that is unusual for the charity sector. I also think it is because Movember is celebrating what is good about being a man.”
The matter of men’s mental health
Movember raises funds to support research programs that mean men can live happier, healthier and longer lives. An important part of this mission is about addressing men’s emotional wellbeing, which the foundation began doing after the founders lost people they knew to suicide in 2006.
“Movember is addressing mental health because three out of four suicides are male,” says Owen. “More than 500,000 men every year, across the globe, die by suicide. It is the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 45.”
“These facts are shocking, and this is a crisis that must be addressed."
"Movember can be a big part of helping to solve this problem – we are investing in targeted projects, we are providing skills to men, and we are going to shout about this issue from the rooftops – it cannot be ignored any longer.”
For a brand with humour in its bones, when it comes to taking on mental health, the Movember Foundation is getting serious – pledging to reduce the rate of male suicides by 25% before 2030.
This pledge comes with a clear, six-step plan:
Teaching men to take action early when times are tough.
Conversations that matter
Working towards a world where men and boys are comfortable having conversations about the big things.
Services that work for men
Ensure that services are designed with men’s specific needs in mind.
Bright minds, brought together
Funding innovative projects and sharing knowledge globally.
Ensure men are able to access support in their communities where they are most comfortable.
Advocating for all men
Calling on governments to understand the issues men are facing and demanding action.
The men’s health epidemic is real, and it’s shortening the lives of the men who matter most to us. From the lack of awareness and information about prostate and testicular cancers, to the taboo of talking about mental health, something has got to change.
For Owen, like the many millions of people who support Movember, his passion for the cause is personal.
“I am a man, and there are so many men in my life that I care about,” he says. “Men’s health has always been a big part of my professional life. I started my career as a nurse, and I worked in the national health service for many years.
“I firmly believe that there are no good reasons why men should be dying five years earlier than women, and it is an absolute privilege to be leading the global organisation that is at the forefront of changing the face of men’s health forever.”
We all need to learn to take care of number one, and the Movember Foundation offers many resources to help men check themselves at home. But the fuel to the fire of Movember is community. It’s about checking in on yourself, but also on the other men in your life.
“Mo-Sistas” are the friends, colleagues, partners and relatives of the Mo-Bros, and they play a pivotal role in the success of Movember. From words of encouragement and reassuring winks, to getting hands-on with hosting fundraising events, everyone can get involved in spreading the word.
In 2017, UK “Mo Bros” and “Mo Sistas” raised a staggering £8 million. The funds are then distributed to a broad range of programmes and men’s health partners, both globally and locally.
In the UK, this includes Prostate Cancer UK, as well as 16 other programmes including “Go to where men are – Young Men” – a vision of a world where all young men are mentally healthy and well.
Movember sees the value in sharing research and information with other organisations in order to better work towards a shared goal of improving the lives of men everywhere. In a step towards this target, 2014 saw the Movember Foundation open two Movember Centres of Excellence in partnership with Prostate Cancer UK. These centres bring experts together in one place in an effort to accelerate research and real change.
“I am so proud of so many things that Movember has achieved,” says Owen. “A great example is the impact that our Centres of Excellence in Prostate Cancer have made.
“We have brought together some of the best researchers to drive forward the knowledge of prostate cancer, and the most rewarding aspect of this is that now men are experiencing better outcomes.”
Another year another tache
The beating heart of Movember is their six core values:
• Respect – being caring and inclusive
• Humble – never forgetting why we are here
• Team Movember – enable every person to be their best
• Remarkable experience – creating them for people and communities
• Change agent – thinking and acting differently to effect everlasting change
• Fun – have fun doing good
It’s the supportive, good-natured essence of Movember that makes it so special and so revolutionary.
In that spirit, the million-pound question is: what style of moustache will Owen be sporting this year?
“This will be my seventh Movember campaign,” he tells us. “I normally prefer the handlebar or ‘trucker’ moustache, but you never know!
“That’s the beauty of Movember: it’s a great excuse to try out a new look, or even look really daft, for a great cause.”
How to get involved
Grow a mo for 30 days in November, collect donations and start conversations. The style, the shape, and the attitude is up to you.
Every hour, 60 men die by suicide. Challenge yourself to walk or run 60 miles throughout the month.
Put on a show and raise funds by getting your friends
together for a “Mo-ment”.
Register online: uk.movember.com/register
To find out more about the Movember campaign and to donate or register as a fundraiser, visit uk.movember.com