The crisis in mental health—especially men’s mental health—predates the pandemic, but it’s impact has compounded the levels of anxiety, depression and other issues dealt with by people across the country. This November, the moustache-growing charity Movember has embraced the digital world of COVID-19 and wants to have a conversation about men’s health with a profound message: “Our fathers, partners, brothers and friends are facing a health crisis, yet it’s rarely talked about. Men are dying too young. We can’t afford to stay silent.” The campaign focuses on making change in the areas of mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer, and UCC has accepted the challenge.
The charity tasks teams of volunteers to fundraise by growing moustaches—for “MoBros”—or walking 60 kilometres in the month of November—for “MoSisters”—while hosting events to encourage donations. At the time of writing, the UCC Movember team has raised over €20,000, long surpassing their original fundraising target of €5,000 on the first day of the month. Over 26 teams make up the larger college effort headed by UCC Movember Ambassador Jacques Kinane. In speaking to University Express, Jacques shared how collaborative the process has been between students, staff, societies, clubs: “All of our success can be directly attributed to the work of this amazing team working behind the scenes. It is also really important to note that you do not have to grow a moustache to get involved, our organising committee actually has more girls than guys.”
“Anything that raises awareness or funds, whether you walk 60km in memory of the 60 men who pass away every hour worldwide due to suicide or ring a friend to check in, you are contributing to the cause. If our work saves even just one life, then it will be all worthwhile.”
The Movember efforts were faced with the added challenge of navigating a virtual environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, having had plans struck down by the announcement of Level 5 restrictions for the month of November. “Our initial plan was to create and sell Movember facemasks with a moustache on the front but as soon as Level 5 was announced, we knew we had to change our plans,” Jacques explained. Quickly, the initiative changed track and went online, seeing the pandemic as an opportunity rather than a reason to cancel: “Everyone is now effectively stuck at home and needs some sort of social outlet, because of this the engagement level has boosted dramatically. We are running many online events and attendance is much higher as people can join from the comfort of their living rooms. “
“There is also a large increase in those growing moustaches as they can now hide it under a mask if they need, but we always encourage people to wear their Mo with pride and let it start conversations!”
Virtual events such as quizzes, bingo nights, and poker nights have helped the UCC Movember campaign quadruple its fundraising target, and UCCSU has worked to keep the conversation around men’s health going, setting up UCC’s first Men’s Sheds. “We felt it was imperative as student leaders to take the initiative to get involved,” UCCSU Welfare Officer Jamie Fraser told University Express, “As men we need to talk, we need to listen and we need people to hear us.”
“We started Men’s Shed for the first time ever here in UCC for Movember,” Jamie shared. “The main goal of Movember is to provide a platform for students to engage with and tackle isolation. We’ve run events such as Home Workouts and Quiz nights and continue to run events over the month. A group chat has been set up to keep everyone connected so if you wish to be added please send a text to 086 184 2697.”
To get involved or to donate to the Movember efforts, all information can be found at @UCCMovember on Instagram.