MOVEMBER: TICKLING TOUGH TOPICS WITH A WISP OF WHIMSICAL
Blog entry by Geoff Mill
I pride myself on using humour wherever possible in therapy. It can be a tenuous balance at times and; it is not always the easiest (or even most appropriate) road to take given some of the painful and personal topics people bring into the room. My experience has shown me that like any timely and authentic ovation from a therapist in session, a gift of good humour and levity can go a long way to establish comfort and trust in the therapeutic alliance.
I was thinking of these “hard roads of humour” as I contemplated the Movember movement this evening. I have freshly arrived on my first night at a FIFO work site that Assured Psychology supports (with onsite mental health services) in Alberta’s north country. People were talking moustaches in the dining room! Men, and easy open communication around mental health and emotional vulnerability have not always existed together seamlessly. This stems from a whole bushel of complex social and historical norms, beliefs and expectations. Thankfully, many of which are gradually shifting. I think institutions like the Movember movement are a welcome and whimsical driver of this progress. All over the world, the steady march is on to break down stigma and barriers to open communication and respect for dignity in differences of all kinds. This includes hard topics like this one, which is near and dear to my heart, men’s mental health.
The talk was buzzing around the site this evening as some of the teams, freshly arrived from days off, jousted happily around “who is in… and who is just falling behind on their personal grooming this early in the shift rotation.” One man teased loudly that he feels his friend “has this year’s contest all locked up…” nodding to a colleague who clearly had a head start. He was proudly sporting a lip-doo that only a year-round connoisseur of the upper lip foliage might. They all laughed, and as a therapist, I reflected on how the silliest little things can bring us connection. Often it starts with laughter, then a nod to deeper and more nuanced meaning. This exchange was no exception and as I already confessed, I sometimes actively leverage this phenomenon in my work. People really do sometimes laugh and joke about the things that make them uncomfortable or nervous, in order to ease into addressing them. As long as it leads to an opening for deeper and more meaningful reflection, I’m in!
I happen to be (very accidentally),“in the club” on this visit. I myself am sporting a well chiseled handlebar moustache. This is an extreme rarity for me, a near full-time devotee to beardedness. Once in a blue moon, I will shave down through the different styles and start over (from scratch if you get my pun). This time was motivated by an epic Halloween costume a few weeks ago. I attended my Wednesday night bowling league as “The Dude” which naturally required a fulsome goatee and sideburns. Yes; community and fun facial hair can be closely connected in many different contexts!
Technically, entering November with a full-fledged stash is cheating. The purists in the movement (started in Australia in 2003), will say that the whole point is to start from scratch. After a clean shave, you do your best over the long, dark days of early winter. Raising funds, awareness and more than a few eyebrows; as you bring an epic lip shadow into the world. Through your fun loving social dis-comfort, comes new and more robust societal comfort and capacity to talk about the tougher topics of men’s health and wellbeing. There is a fundamental humility in the burgeoning half beard that ties nicely into bigger themes of “this stuff is hard to look at!” For a quick read on the historical rise of this global health promotion phenomena, visit https://ca.movember.com.
The key here is that the proof is in the pudding, (which gets decidedly harder to eat with a mustachioed upper). People are talking about men’s mental health these days, on a scale that is very promising! Even here, in this rugged frontier-like outpost, the Movember movement has made its mark. No doubt, we have a long way to go and you should know that at Assured Psychology we have a vested interest in all people’s health and wellbeing. With that said, it is never a wasted effort to help shine a light on topics that aren’t as easily broached, especially when it can be done in a fashion that is a little bit silly, even fun.
If one person reads this blog and is inspired to talk about health in the month of November then this handlebar was worth every eye roll, I endured from my loved ones! When it comes to mental health, if you can’t have a moustache on your lip, hopefully you can at least have a smile!