So far, the feedback on my moustache has been mixed. My sister, on a Zoom call from Ottawa, compared me (somewhat oddly) to a capybara. A colleague from the NZ Initiative hinted that I looked better before I started growing it. Another simply asked me, in a tone of weary resignation, ‘Why are you doing this?’
The reason I’m doing this is to support Movember, whose annual campaign was launched earlier this month in Parliament at an event hosted by ACT MP Damien Smith. By moving men to mould moustaches, Movember hopes to raise awareness and funds for a number of health issues that particularly affect men, from prostate and testicular cancer to suicide.
Of course, there are plenty of health issues that particularly (or even uniquely) affect women, from childbirth to breast cancer. The point isn’t to invite invidious comparisons or provoke pointless competition. It’s to make sure that our society is doing the best it can at providing help where it’s most needed.
In New Zealand, although women typically report poor mental health at higher rates than men (and did again in 2021), male deaths by suicide over the past couple of decades have outnumbered female deaths by a factor of between 2.5 and 3 to 1. In 2019/20, that meant we lost 183 Kiwi women in this way and 471 Kiwi men.
That reflects trends across the globe. Worldwide, women are more likely to report suffering from depression and anxiety than men. They’re also more likely to attempt suicide. But men die by suicide at between three and four times the rate of women.
Male suicide is thus a very serious issue, and something you’d think we'd be watching carefully. But the Ministry of Justice’s media release of provisional suicide statistics for 2021/22 doesn’t even include a breakdown by sex.
That’s just one more sign, in addition to the sobering statistics themselves, that the issue of male suicide isn’t getting the attention it deserves. This in a country with an overall suicide rate that’s almost twice that in the US and almost five times the UK’s.
And that’s why I’ll be continuing to tailor my ‘tache, at least until the end of the month – that, and the fact that moustaches are magnificent, as well as important.