This Movember, I’m doing things differently. Instead of a simple selfie, I’m sharing a photo of a moment in my day that reminds me of my Dad. So far they’ve included salads, spectacles and stripy tie. Every picture tells a story. Not stories that say ‘Dad bought me this so I like it’ or ‘we went on this expensive holiday, it was awesome’. They’re stories that talk about the concerts he came to support me in, the family trips we took, the party he let me have. They’re memories of moments we shared together.
Yesterday I shared dinner with a friend who’s Dad unexpectedly died last month. I don’t like saying he ‘committed suicide’: it’s such an ugly term and it hints at it being a rational choice. He was severely ill, just as my Dad was severely ill with prostate cancer. As she told me how she was, I was taken straight back to my Dad’s death in a way I only ever am when I know someone’s grieving. I was again sitting in a church full of people at the funeral. I was again thinking of the friends who supported me in that immediate aftermath.
In the UK, twelve men die from suicide everyday. That headline figure barely touches on the scale of mental health and isolation problems that men are prone to and suffer. Isolation is especially something I struggle with, having just moved to my 4th home in 4 years. What helps me cope isn’t knowing how many people tap their phone to like my selfie, but the ordinary moments I spend with my friends and family: the cuppa tea Mum makes me, the meal out I have with uni pals, the time a friend helps me out of despair over the phone.
I don’t want to sound sugar coated when I ask you to tell a colleague their outfit looks great, text a friend a plethora of emojis or wish the checkout lady a nice day before she wishes you one. I know living in a Disney film and flashing one smile won’t cure mental illness. But I know connecting in person with strangers and our loved ones will build strong communities, where the risk of stress and isolation is minimised and joyful memories are easy to find.
You can see my Movember Memories photos, donate and read more about mental health issues for men on my Mo Space.