As moustaches grow thicker across campus, it's clear that the annual “Movember” campaign is well underway.
Started in Australia in 2003 by a group of friends who wondered why moustaches had gone out of style, they decided to grow out their facial hair for charity the next year. As the years passed, Movember gained more prominence with hundreds of millions of participants.
Over the past month, Western students have been raising awareness and funds for men's health issues, including prostate cancer, mental illness and suicide prevention.
“I think [the campaign] is really important because men in general ... don’t like to talk about stuff,” says Chris Kowalski, a graduate health sciences student.
This year, the Movember campaign hits particularly close to home for Kowalski. His father was recently battling prostate cancer.
“He got it checked out early enough that he was able to get an operation," says Kowalski. "He’s officially cancer free now, for a month now. Hopefully it’ll keep that way.”
While Kowalski understands that people may be aware of what the moustaches represent, he believes that the true reason men are encouraged to grow their facial hair is being forgotten.
“Nobody looks at what issues are happening. Nobody knows the mental health issues that are also going on, [the issues] that Movember also represents. It’s just purely just [a] moustache… It’s just not at all associated with the actual cause anymore. I think that’s kind of important to keep up again,” Kowalski says.
Other students stress the importance that awareness has in the Movember campaign this month.
Chris Gutierrez, third-year biology student sporting a 'stache, thinks the visible symbol of support for the cause is important.
"It might not exactly cause you to donate, but at least you’re aware and it’s in your mind," Gutierrez says. "I think that’s the main thing… especially as we get older."
Several organizations around Western are involved in raising support this month, including clubs such as the Cancer Awareness Society and Active Minds UWO.
Ryan Henderson, president at Active Minds, an organization that aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, adds that his organization has had a successful campaign this last month to raise awareness. Men from around campus were photographed and quoted as they explained their experiences with mental health. The photos have accumulated over 1,000 Facebook likes.
“We pride ourselves in playing our part to move the conversation around mental health forward for all students,” Henderson says.
Kowalski believes that publicity on its own, in the form of men participating in growing out their own facial hair, is sufficient effort from “Movember” participants if it means men will realize they should be screened for various cancers that may affect them.
With “Movember” wrapping up this week, the campaign at Western has embraced a more holistic view of promoting men’s health and wellness.