Pensive man stares into the camera's lens for a photo
"Movember Conversations prepared me."Image by: Alex Sworik
Pensive man stares into the camera's lens for a photo
29 August 2023

David’s story: Without Movember Conversations, things could have been completely different

4 minutes read time

Growing awareness of the men’s mental health crisis

I got involved with Movember to be a part of a moustache growing competition. But as Movember evolved into supporting mental health and suicide prevention, as did my awareness of the mental health crisis facing men. I started seeing obituaries for some guys I used to play football with. I thought to myself, “Something’s not right.” And wanted to understand what was going on.

Before being a part of Movember, me and the men in my life, we never approached the topic of mental health. It was just getting together through things like sports or going to the movies or going out for supper or a couple of beers. But we never talked about men's mental health. It was always about, “How’s work? What are you doing next? What’s coming up for travel?” It was never introspective.

The barriers men face when it comes to opening up

The barriers to these conversations are societal. We’ve grown up hearing and thinking men are supposed to be the protector, the guardian – invincible. We’re made to believe we’re not supposed to show any signs of weakness or vulnerability at all. Oftentimes, we don’t have the language, so expressing what we’re feeling is difficult and we will speak through our actions. This is where picking up on the signs of men’s actions can be so important. If someone’s acting a little bit more distant or not showing up to meetings or activities. Maybe the tone of voice is a little bit more somber, or their facial expressions or the ways they show up on social media have changed.

Spotting the signs and Movember Conversations

Through things like Movember Conversations and the ALEC model, along with some extra training I sought out, I’ve learned how to pick up on these signs, and know when to start asking important questions.

When Movember Conversations first launched, I got really into it. I went on the website and went through all the simulated conversations, practicing how to use ALEC to help a friend who might be withdrawn, or is overwhelmed with new work or family responsibilities, or going through a breakup. It was a great coaching tool for these important conversations. As I was running through the practice conversations, I kept thinking about the statistic: 2 out of 3 deaths by suicide are by men. It really hit home why this tool was so important.

Being prepared for a tough but important conversation

I’ve used Movember Conversations quite a few times, but it prepared me for one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had.

A man in my life was going through a separation in his relationship. I’d call him up to check in, go out to supper and the odd coffee chat, where I was trying to pull some information to give me a sense of where he was at. But he wasn’t giving me anything. Eventually, he started declining all of my invites – becoming distant, expressing how tired he was from work, which he’d been throwing himself into. Eventually he went into a darker tunnel, completely distancing himself. I continued to check in, which I think demonstrated I was willing to be present for him. When we next spoke, over the phone, he shared where things were really at, and that he’d had thoughts of suicide.

In this moment I was so grateful for everything I had learned about having these conversations. It provided me with a framework, an expert-backed guideline to ask the right questions, and help him to open up. I distinctly remember visualizing the mustard yellow and black on the Movember Conversations website, as I’d pose my next question to keep the conversation going. At some point during the call, a light bulb must have come on – I don’t know if it was a glimmer of hope, or a reminder that he wasn’t alone – but his voice changed and he calmed down. It was a long, difficult, phone call. But it was a necessary one.

I continued to schedule check ins, and with each conversation, he began to sound more like himself. We started having regular coffee chats talk, and little by little, he was starting to think out loud about what his life could look like, what was next – finding his life passions.

Being the friend that will go there

I think he knew I had recognized something was different, and that I was I was there for him and I was open to talking about it. If I had not gone through my many years of Movember experiences and tried out Movember Conversations, I don’t think I would have been able to have been there for him in the right way. I would have fallen short. And then the circumstances could have changed completely.

I would recommend to any man out there to play into your vulnerability. Life has its ups and downs, and at times, you need your community, you need support, you need others around you. So, deep dive into those important conversations. They’ll lead to better outcomes.

If you spot a friend whose behaviour is out of character, that's your sign to check in with them. Learn more about how to spot the signs.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, or needs emotional support we urge you to head to for crisis support options. To speak with someone immediately, contact your local 24-hour support service.