Since 2003, Movember has funded more than 1,250 men’s health projects around the world. As the 2019 campaign gets underway, Daniel Jones explores the impact the Foundation has made, and the huge challenges still to overcome

Movember Foundation Men's Fitness UK

Last year, Movember raised over £57.6 million

From the initial brainchild of four young Aussies sitting around a pub in Melbourne, the Movember Foundation has grown into the world’s leading men’s health charity in little more than 15 years.

Chances are you’ll have come face to face with their annual campaigns at some point, encouraging men of all ages to spare their top lip the shaving cream and proudly rock their moustache as a badge of awareness.

It’s certainly proven to be much more than a gimmick; the organisation currently runs initiatives across 21 countries worldwide and counts the likes of Jamie Oliver, Ricky Gervais, Christopher Waltz and Snoop Dogg among their list of ambassadors.

Last year, Movember raised over £57.6 million in funding through its network of ‘Mo Bros’ and ‘Mo Sistas’ – an incredible feat that shows just how far the organisation has come. They have their sights set on beating that figure in 2019, with much of the funding going towards the research and treatment of prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.

We caught up with co-founder Justin Coghlan, better known as JC, to discuss their ongoing initiatives, the current state of men’s health and other challenges facing the organisation as it heads into this year’s campaign.

“You don’t have to be a medical or health professional to make a massive difference”

“Our main goal is to continue tackling the increasingly dire state of men’s health head on,” JC explains. “In the UK the stats are very concerning. One man dies every 45 minutes from prostate cancer, while more than 333,000 are living with the disease.

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men, and although in most cases the outcome for men with the disease is positive, a 95 per cent chance of survival is of no comfort to the one in 20 who won’t make it.

“A big part of our message is that you don’t always have to be a medical or health professional to make a massive difference. This year we’ll be emphasising the important role each and every one of us, both men and women, can play in looking out for the men around us.

“We’ll be specifically highlighting how to spot the signs when a man is finding the going tough. If we can equip this large group of Movember supporters with just that bit more knowledge, awareness and confidence to reach out to a man who’s feeling in a bad way then the knock-on effect can be massive.”

Movember Foundation Men's Fitness UK

JC, co-founder of the Movember Foundation

The mental health dilemma

Removing the stigma around mental health discussion has moved further and further up the social agenda in recent years, though a quick glance at the stats is enough to suggest there’s still plenty more work to do. 

Movember’s research reveals that 13 men a day take their own lives and three out of four suicides are by men, making it the leading cause of death for males under 45 in the UK.

Added to that are the latest ONS statistics that show an increase in suicide rates in the UK, largely driven by an increase among men, who took their own lives at a rate of 17.2 per 100,000, compared with 15.5 in 2017. 

“That’s why we are more focused than ever on stopping men from dying too young,” JC adds. “By 2030, our goal is to reduce the rate of male suicides by 25 per cent. The good thing is we’re definitely talking more about mental health and suicide prevention than ever before.

“There are many people in both the UK and abroad lending their profile and experience to provide hope to the many people living with or supporting someone who has been impacted by suicide or a mental health challenge.

“Worryingly, though, there is still a lack of understanding about how suicide and mental health should be reported on and represented in media and broadcast settings. There is a growing body of evidence to show that responsible and safe coverage of suicide and self-harm can reduce stigma and lessen the impact on vulnerable people.

“The work Movember has done reaching millions of men over the past 15 years shows that men find it easier to open up when they are standing shoulder to shoulder, engaged in something they are passionate about.”

The DGR hits the streets of the Algarve

Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride

One key aspect of Movember’s success has undoubtedly been their commitment to partnering with other like-minded organisations around the globe to deliver funding and support where it’s needed most.

This year, Movember has funded several of its largest co-operative initiatives to date, including the recent Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride (DGR).

The DGR is a worldwide event geared to change the conversation around men’s health issues by bringing together 140,000 motorcycle riders across 700 cities in 101 countries. That’s no mean feat, though thanks to supporters like Miles Perkins, Head of Brand Management at Triumph Motorcycles, the event has helped create a huge support network for many.

“I first learnt about the DGR through work,” Perkins recalls. “When I started taking part it was simply a great day out, for a great cause. But after I lost my father to prostate cancer three years ago, the meaning and importance of the DGR became much stronger for me. As well as fundraising, the ride is a chance to honour and remember those lost to men’s health issues.

“My dad was a biker and his interest in motorcycles certainly sparked my own interest as a kid. The ride can be a very emotive thing. I know I’m not over the loss of my dad and I’m not sure I’ll ever be over it, but to be in the company of people who are supporting and fundraising for the people they love is a wonderful thing.

“You’re with people who are on the same wavelength. You all love bikes, but when you see the fathers and sons dressed up in their tweed, there’s something more to it. It’s amazingly emotional and a wonderful sight.

“Unfortunately, my father’s situation isn’t unusual. The diagnosis crept up on him, just as it does with a lot of people. That’s why it’s so important guys go to a doctor and get checked if they don’t feel right or are suffering from something which they think is unusual. Do something about it.

“It’s finding it early that will save men from dying too young, just like my father did. That’s why DGR is so important – to get people to act.”

Movember Men's Fitness UK

Fergus Crawley, a MoBro based in Scotland, has taken on a number of endurance challenges and raised over £22,000 in the process

How to do your bit for Movember

If you’re thinking about getting involved yourself then it’s certainly not too late to set up your own campaign. Anyone can raise funds for Movember by sponsoring their moustache growth, hosting an event or even taking on the official ‘Move’ challenge by walking or running 60k over the month. 

“That goes for women too,” adds JC. “A lack of facial hair is no excuse for not getting involved. We’re actively encouraging more partners to reach out to the men in their lives, start conversations, ask the deeper questions and listen to what they have to say.

“You don’t need to be an expert to help a loved one. But being there for them, listening and giving your time can make a huge difference.

“Every year I’m humbled by the time and effort our Mo Bros and Mo Sistas spend on spreading awareness and raising money to help combat men’s health issues. We’re always looking to evolve as a charity and there’s still plenty more work to be done to stop men dying too young.

“We’re privileged to have so many supporters across the world who are as passionate as we are in the changing face of men’s health. Fifteen years later and we’re just getting started.”

Head over to the Movember website for more information.  and if you do want to go down the route of sporting a dodgy ’tache , there’s a handy starter kit available to download uk.movember.com

  • 12 men take their own lives every day in the UK.
  • Three out of four suicides in the UK are committed by men, making it the leading cause of death for males under the age of 45.
  • One in eight British men suffer from a mental health disorder.
  • One man dies every 45 minutes from prostate cancer, while more than 333,000 are living with the disease.