More Than Movember: The Critical State Of Men’s Mental Health
By Nick Bennett, Forbes.com
Movember is a spectacular example of cultural intervention in men’s health. A portmanteau of the Australian-English diminutive for ‘mustache’ and ‘November’, Movember invites us to focus on the male symbol of the ‘mo’ and men’s health issues, for a full month each year.
Across the Atlantic and Pacific, men’s upper lips fur over in support of some of the biggest health issues faced by men: prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health and suicide prevention. Last year, 2017, a spectacular $67.5 million was raised across 20 countries with over 5 million ‘Mo Bros’ and ‘Mo Sistas’ supporting the cause in individual sponsor events and campaigns. Of the funds raised, 72.3% was allocated to men’s health programmes and awareness.
The Movember Foundation is to be applauded and admired for having achieved global reach since it was formed in 2003. It’s clearly highlighted the need to talk, with language being a key factor behind cultural shifts, an issue I explored previously in my article regarding the need to adopt positive language in the mental health sphere.
However, let’s use this month of awareness to take a wider look at the critical state of men’s mental health and ask ourselves, does this deserve more than just November?
The male mental health crisis gap
The crisis gap is in males not talking about their problems and the limited number of professionals available.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 800,000 people take their own lives every year. And that number continues to grow. That’s one person every 40 seconds. And many, many more attempt suicide.
Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally. And, of those committing suicide in the Western world, 75% are male.
This enormous disparity between males and females is starkly highlighted when you look at the surrounding factors. 40% of men in crisis admit that they won’t talk to anyone, citing reasons of embarrassment, not wanting to be a burden, or because they feel like they have no one to turn to.
What are we doing to face this global crisis?
In Europe, there are just 50 mental health staff for every 100,000 population. And, in the US, the number is only 28 mental health staff for every 100,000.
This figure is even more concerning at a global level. The WHO states that there’s an average of 9 mental health staff for every 100,000 and, of the global health workforce, only 1% is focussed on mental health.
These statistics, when coupled with the latest WHO statement in April 2018 that depression is now the No.1 health risk for humans, with 300 million people suffering worldwide, makes it very clear that we need to act strongly to close this crisis gap with another form of intervention.
Digital intervention is a growing sector
This crisis is beginning to be addressed, with additional funds being pledged by governments and by an increase in digital intervention services. In the UK for example, an additional £2 billion each year is to be allocated for mental health crisis services. And, Babylon Health and Talkspace provide app-based solutions and digital services that connect users to a professional in order to break down some of the barriers created by distance, price and accessibility.
But, with the numbers of people affected globally by a mental health condition still growing, much more needs to be done.
As such, new services are starting to address the important need to intervene, such as Basis, the new startup founded by former Uber executive Andrew Chapin, which promises to connect users to unlicensed but trained specialists for paid sessions.
Many more apps and digital services are also more frequently appearing, using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) methods to help users cope with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, anxiety, OCD, stress, eating disorders, self-harm, addiction and more.
And, in a similar sphere, we also have apps such as Calm and Headspace which provide meditation training. This is providing a foundation of proactive emotional health exercise that’s been proven to deliver very real mental health benefits.
Intervention is also about cultural and motivational levers
The genius of Movember is its cultural intervention using the humor, visibility and simplicity of the mustache. It draws us in and presents us with a challenge to get involved and be brave while delivering social reward and community kudos. These are key principles of the network effect and human motivation theory.
In the same way, we need to find our digital intervention equivalents of the mustache if we are to try and close the gaps in care crisis. As Movember has intervened culturally and become a mainstream activity for the month of November, we need to do the same throughout the year for mental health.
We should seek to introduce more innovation into early intervention as a foundation of our approach. And, while we certainly do need to talk more about mental health, we would be wise to do that with a positive lexicon that encourages attractive and proactive mainstream habits and routines.
Let’s put our heads together.