Content warning: this story talks about mental health issues and suicide.
Justin Anderson, the manager of Betty’s in downtown Fort Frances, and his uncle Blair Anderson are back fundraising for Movember this year. After selling a hoodie last year, they’ve expanded the line for people who want to continue their support.
Justin Anderson lost his brother to suicide in 2018 and he and his uncle have been raising awareness and money since.
Initially, Movember started to raise funds and awareness about male specific cancers and early detection. In recent years it has shifted to become more focussed on men’s health in general and added mental health specifically.
Last year alone the “In honour of Will Anderson” Movember team raised over $10,000 and close to $50,000 in total.
Part of last year’s fundraising was fueled by the sale of Movember hoodies. This year Anderson has expanded his Movember clothing line to include sweatpants, a crewneck sweatshirt and a long-sleeve t-shirt.
“I figured because I printed the hoodies last year, some people might want something different,” Anderson said. “Especially because a lot of people supporting us are friends and family or repeat supporters, I wanted to have something different.”
The items are black and sport white moustaches and semicolons. In recent years the semicolon has become a symbol for suicide prevention.
“I think the actual significance of it is like how an author or a writer would use a semicolon, not to end a sentence, but to continue it on,” Anderson said. “So I think in a way it’s a message to not end things and continue on because things can get better and there are many people who care about you and love you and a lot of the time [suicide] is preventable.”
You can donate to the Andersons’ Movember team at https://movember.com/t/in-honour-of-will-anderson?mc=1. Or you can give by purchasing any of the clothing items available at Betty’s in downtown Fort Frances. The hoodies are $59.99, sweatpants are $64.99, long sleeve t-shirts are $29.99 and crewneck sweatshirts are $49.99.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women with the highest number of suicides happening in men aged 40-60.
CMHA also says there are certain kinds of messaging that are particularly harmful for men’s mental health that are prevalent in society.
One message is that “men should be successful and strong.”
“Societal expectations put pressure on men to be strong and successful, where success is measured through power, position and financial security. As a result, self-care and stress management are seen as signs of weakness,” the CMHA says.
Another is “men’s physical symptoms are caused by injury or disease.”
“Men are more likely to describe their mental health concerns as physical symptoms such as headaches or chronic pain. The link between signs of mental illness and physical symptoms is often unrecognized and leads to undiagnosed, untreated men.”
Another message that boys and men often see is that messages around self-care and having a good work-life balance are more oriented towards women than men.
Messages like these and others are often present in men’s lives from a young age. CMHA says society needs to do a better job of teaching boys to take care of themselves.
“If we teach young boys healthy coping skills and self-care practices, they will be better prepared to recognize unhealthy thoughts and behaviours as teenagers and as adults.”
One of the solutions to this issue, they say.
“Let’s show men and boys that it’s ok to express their emotions. It’s necessary for boys and men to take care of themselves, work-life balance is important for men too, and success can be defined by their own criteria, which may include mental health, healthy relationships and happiness.”