Mo Invisible Battles
Earlier this month, ProstateCancer.net sat down with the Movember Foundation and two Mo Bros, Doug Prusoff and Matt Gutt, to talk about Movember and one of the movement’s missions to provide a broader platform for mental health awareness. Doug and Matt open up about their personal connection to the cause in a frank conversation about mental health and prostate cancer. You can read more about the Movember Foundation, Doug and Matt’s involvement, and how you can get involved, in “Movember: Season of the ‘Stache” here.
When and how did mental health become part of Movember?
Doug: Prostate cancer was the first cause that we supported as a foundation. Then two years after that mental health was added globally. It really came from a couple different places - mainly recognizing that the physical and mental pieces go hand in hand. In the communities we work with, we found that there was a big piece not being addressed when discussing general health - mental health. Even though mental health and suicide prevention isn’t exclusively for men, it’s important to remember that four out of five suicides are completed by men. So it really makes this a gendered issue.
What has to change?
Doug: A lot of this is rooted in a lack of mental health awareness. Guys don’t feel comfortable admitting when something isn’t going well. They may not go out and find the support they need to help them through these hardships. Movember is trying to look at things differently, reduce the mental health stigma, and also build support systems for men and young boys. We have to continue to make sure these guys have what they need to get through the tough times in life. Inevitably we’re all going to go through hardship, whether it’s changes in your job, family, stress, or health complications. It’s important to make sure that when that stuff comes up in life that you’re ready for it.
Have you always been open to these conversations?
Matt: Working with Movember makes it easier to find a receptive audience out there to talk about these issues with - whether it’s with your peers or people in the community. Some people are just waiting for someone else to start the conversation. Movember is certainly one way to start or get involved in those conversations.
The goal is to be educated and willing to talk about it before it becomes a crisis. From my own personal experience with mental health and depression, which were diagnosed prior to my having prostate cancer, I found that conversations are easier to start than I thought. Talking about it shows that there are people out there willing to talk and open up about their story.
Doug: One of my motivations for getting involved with the Movember movement is my brother. I have a brother who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was a senior in high school. He was suicidal and I walked in on him with a razor blade in his hand ready to take his own life. He was able to get treatment and now he’s come through the other side where he’s been sober for 10 years, he’s married, and has three kids. You can see what could have been on one side of this and what ended up being by the power of reaching out and talking; admitting that he wasn’t in his best shape and he needed to do some different things to be able to take control of his own life.
His story motivated me to be in Movember more than anything else and seeing that power is something that I’ve really been lucky. In my role, I get to work with so many different Movember supporters from all around the world. I’m able to hear so many similar stories whether it’s around mental health or physical health. I’ve seen the power of Movember for men and it’s made me want to get more involved and spread the message to as many people as I can.
Do younger and older generations approach talking about mental health different?
Doug: You definitely notice a change between generations and how they view mental health. I think what I’ve really been encouraged to see anecdotally is the way this mentality about mental health conversations is changing. I still think there’s a tremendously long road ahead of us before we fully realize and accept it as a society. Regardless of the generation, we need to bring those conversations that would typically happen behind closed doors front and center.
Matt: Online communities and social media give men who are not comfortable necessarily talking face to face a safe place to talk. It allows them to put their feelings out there in this “faceless” community made of people who share the similar experiences. I’ve been on some online sites for cancer fighters and you see people of all ages opening up, more so than I saw earlier on. I was in a prostate cancer support group where members really didn’t open up about their feelings. It was more about trying to gain control again and releasing anger, which is a totally valid emotion. In terms of needing to vent and expressing yourself, I think social media and online sites give people that ability and it’s critical.
What would you say to a friend or loved one who is struggling?
Doug: The first would be to reach out and ask - start that conversation. So many people feel hesitant to do that. These conversations are not easy or fun to have, but I so strongly believe that they are necessary to have. I think a lot of people worry they’ll say the wrong thing. I’m a firm believer that it’s better to say something, rather than nothing. You don’t need to solve all their problems or give them the solution, but ask questions and care enough to listen. Encourage them to take action for themselves, whether that’s speaking to a professional or doing other things in their life to take care of themselves.
I think for anyone who going through any type of personal challenge, they know there are good days and bad days. It’s not a one-step “here’s your solution” fix. For so many, it’s a lifelong process and may not have an ending point. Continuing to be there and offer an ear to listen and make sure that person knows they can count on you for support when they need it makes a difference. Those conversations, the early intervention, that’s what saves lives. That’s the whole point of Movember.
If you're searching for mental health resources and support, you can learn more about Movember's Man of More Words movement here.
If you’re looking for more information about prostate cancer and what this diagnosis means for your life, you can check out the Movember TrueNTH platform here.
If you’re interested in signing up for more information, growing your mo, donating to the movement, or even starting your own Movember fundraising event, go to Movember.com or click here.
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