Calgary men grow their facial hair for Movember

Men around the world will either be growing it, or taking it off to grow it again this month — it being their facial hair — because, of course, it’s Movember.

The men’s health awareness campaign is one of the biggest on Earth and kicked off on Thursday. Raising money and awareness for prostate and testicular cancer, Movember is also doing the same for men’s mental health and suicide prevention.

“In Canada, three out of every four suicides is male, which is really a stark statistic and there’s really no good reason for it other than the way we socialize men,” said Sam Swain, co-chair of the Movember Calgary committee.

“We tell boys to suck it up,” Swain said. “We tell them to hold it in. ‘Boys don’t cry… be a man.’ ‘Be a man’ is the worst thing you can say to a young boy because what we consider to be a man is not really what a human being is.

“Human beings have emotions and it’s OK to have emotions, it’s OK to let them out — it’s actually good to let them out — and so that’s where we’re focusing a lot of the efforts recently.”

Though the month-long campaign takes place around the world, funds raised locally support and fund local initiatives.

“So in Calgary, locally, there’s Next Gen Men,” Swain said. “[That] was a big program that started with funding from Movember, and that’s all about getting men together and talking about their health, their feelings, what’s going on with their lives, depression — it’s a new topic every month.”

Various Movember events take place throughout the month, however, most men who participate choose to sport their various styles at the beginning of the month.

For some, that means taking it all off or taking none off at all but maybe grooming or styling their beards in an unusual way.

“It used to be very, very rigid. You had to start clean-shaven but we wanted to be more inclusive and a lot of men with beards are very, very attached to their beards… if we can find ways to engage them and get them to participate, that’s really what matters,” Swain said of the change in how men are now participating in the popular event.

For others, like Steve Lajoie, it means kicking it old school and shaving his beard off completely, leaving only a signature Movember moustache.

“I am ready to let it go,” he said. “Every year, I have a beard 11 months a year, and this is the only time of year I shave it off.”

As a co-chair on the Movember Calgary committee, Lajoie says he has seen male family and friends alike struggle with both physical and mental health issues and is committed to bringing awareness to men’s health concerns in general.

Part of that commitment starts with the shedding of his beard, which in turn usually gets the conversation going, which is the root of the movement — to get men talking.

The hope is shaving off some layers this month will also start to take the weight off talking openly about the health and mental health issues that are common among men.

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