As per the ancient ritualistic custom of this mysterious land, I took my razor down to the Jackson Court Pit on Oct. 31 and, following the other 88 members of the Great Male Council gathered there, cast it into a blazing bonfire, ushering in the great period of No Shave November.
The midnight wind blew the glowing embers of our shaving tools across the sky, as our freshly shaven faces instantly developed 3 o’clock shadows (not 5 o’clock shadows, because that’s too mainstream and UR doesn’t roll like that).
No Shave November is not an isolated or unknown phenomenon. For as long as I can remember, men have partaken in this “fad.” Except, it’s not really a fad, at least, not without a cause. No Shave November, or Movember, started out as a medium to raise awareness about men’s wellness, from cancer to mental health, and has somewhat evolved into an annual trend of sorts.
The meaning, while not completely forgotten, is not very widespread. But the Mental Health Task Force, a UR club created last spring, decided to revive the true spirit of Movember here on campus. They reached out to a wide audience, asking them to do the Movember Challenge, in their efforts to raise awareness about the stigma surrounding men’s mental health.
Wait a minute.
Men’s mental health?
Men have mental health issues?
You mean there are men who have mental health issues that they talk about?!?
This might come as a surprise to some of you, but yes.
Men, like normal human beings, have normal human brains, with normal human emotions, and normal human feelings. Except society disregards all male emotions and feelings, save perhaps happiness or anger, because those are the only defaults men can have.
Movember exists to break down these toxic standards. In some twisted form of irony, the same toxic male dominance that oppresses women oppresses itself. Self-inflicted oppression leads to crippling forms of mental collapse and depression. Obviously, stop oppressing women, but let’s also stop oppressing ourselves, men.
As part of the Mental Health Task Force’s Movember initiative, I was invited to sit on a panel to discuss of men’s mental health. The panel was a humbling experience. It felt so important to come together with four other men and talk about just being mentally healthy for once, something none of us were used to. We took the chance to be vulnerable and open, engaging in topics that macho men would scoff at, as we hoped to challenge these cruel societal norms and the general male stubbornness around getting help.
Did you know that in 2017, men died by suicide 3.54x more often than women? Nearly one in five men develop alcohol dependency during their life. About nine percent of men in the US have daily feelings of depression and anxiety, but only a quarter of those reach out to a mental health professional.
If you’re a man reading this, drop your work and close your eyes. Take a deep breath, stroke your nice long beard, and think about whatever’s weighing down on you, because if you go to this school, chances are you’re probably at 83 credits and on four E-boards, and you’re probably taking the LSAT and MCAT tomorrow.
I get it — getting rid of all this machismo overnight is impossible. I still don’t practice what I preach sometimes, but it’s okay, y’all! We need to make an effort to at least work towards taking care of our mental health, even if it is just small steps.
Reach out to a friend. Reach out to the University Counseling Center. Reach out to your family. Be there for your friend. Be there for your peers. Be there for your family. To jump-start this cycle of mental care, we must realize when to give and when to take. If you don’t feel okay, it’s okay. There is no reason for us to bottle up our feelings, because guess what? It’s not a sign of strength. If you’re truly strong, or want to be strong, you’re going to want to do the right thing, and reach out for help before it gets too late.
Keep those beards oiled, and those moustaches trimmed, gents. Let’s get this mental health bread.