November is Movember, too

I have been feeling quite under the weather lately. I’ve been feeling ill, my head has been throbbing, and my desire to get up and be productive has been absent. I am not going to sugar-coat it, it has been a terrible time. Not just because I don’t feel like getting out of bed, but because I know that I could be productive, or I could be spending time with my family, or I could be just going for a walk to clear my head. And I can blame it on feeling sick, but the truth is that I just don’t want to. But why?

The internship program that I am in is comprised of three parts: working in a bank, being seconded to a non-profit organization, and working at the bank’s head or regional offices in various departments. Respectively, they take six, three, and three months, making up a full year. This is my last week at my non-profit, so next week marks my first day at my third “rotation” in this charity. I will be placed into a role I have never done before (marketing), in a city I have only visited for a day or two at a time, and my commuting time will increase from one hour per day to three. Add on the various complexities of life, managing a blog, exercising, writing a novel in a month, and figuring out a darn Halloween costume.

So why have I been feeling so lethargic lately? I’m stressed.

Now, I try to live a life that is relatively stress-free. I try to manage my time well, I try to fill my days with meaningful activities that I actually enjoy. Usually I can accomplish that or, if I am feeling stressed out, I can spend the day playing video games or spending time with friends. I know the ways that I can de-stress myself, even if it takes longer than it normally does.

I have been writing and tweeting and thinking a lot about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) taking place in the month of November. I am very excited for it, as those who follow me or read these blogs can probably tell, but there is something I have neglected that is coming up. November is also Movember, a month that many know is dedicated to many people shaving on the first and growing out usually terrible moustaches throughout the whole month. This event is internationally recognized, though many do not know the actual meaning behind it.

Movember is a month of fundraising for men’s health, internationally. Those who commit to growing the moustache can have friends and family pledge donations to show their support, and these funds go towards awareness and research for prostate cancer and men’s mental health.

Everyone who knows me knows that I eat, drink, and sweat equality. I truly hope to see a day of real equality – in terms of race, belief, sex, gender, and any other category I may not be thinking of at the moment – within my lifetime. Movember, however, focuses on male health issues. A disproportionate number of people who commit suicide are male, approximately 75%. It has become “unmanly” to talk about your health, specifically your mental health, for fear of appearing weak. People attack your masculinity, your very identity, if you mention the topic. There is a stigma surrounding just talking about mental health, whether it be needing time off, needing to see a specialist, or just needing someone to speak with, modern society muzzles men on the topic. And it shows in the numbers. One male will end his own life every single minute because of a mental health issue. How many moments have you been reading this blog?

And mental health is not exclusive to men. No matter who you are, it is almost guaranteed that you know someone who has struggled with mental health. I have seen friends drop out of school, become dependent on drugs, completely change their personalities because of their battle with mental health. I have seen friends lose parents, cousins, brothers to the struggle with mental health problems, and I have lost a friend myself.

Mental health is a stigmatized topic that affects each and every one of us. Movember may be a month dedicated to funding research about men’s health, but we do not need a month dedicated to being aware of our own health, and that of those closest to us. Take a look at yourself, your family and your friends. Don’t wait until it is too late. If you know someone who is having a tough time, let them know that you are there for them. You do not have to force them to let you in, but just knowing that someone is there is a great start. And if you are struggling with your own mental health, do not be silent about it. Reach out to family and friends. There are numerous resources available online, through hotlines, or through medical practitioners. Mental health is just as important as your physical health, and don’t let anyone ever tell you differently.

There are people that care, and there is help out there. Please, don’t become another statistic.