Oliver Bunn, 26, from Hove lost Jimmy, a close friend to suicide in 2014.
He said: “If you asked anyone about him they would all say the same thing: ‘life of the party’, ‘happiest guy around’ ‘lived to make you smile’, but clearly this was just the boy we could see on the outside.
“I’ll never be able to ask him what made him do it, in all honesty it’s not a conversation anyone wants to have, my only regret is that we didn’t check in on him when the signs were there.
“As an 18 year old boy your feelings are not something that are in the forefront of your mind. I did not talk about mine and my friends didn’t either. The typical ‘man up’ or ‘just get on with it’ were often used, outdated terms from a hangover of societal stereotypes that Movember are trying to rid.”
Oliver has been supporting Movember for the last eight years.
Movember sees men grow a moustache throughout the month of November while raising money for the charity.
Since 2018 Oliver has raised more than £2,000 individually and more than £20,000 through the efforts of Hurstpierpoint College, where Oliver is a maths teacher.
He said: “Movember and the growing of moustaches has helped destigmatise the tough conversations that need to be had.
“The money raised does such great things, from supporting cancer patients to setting up online platforms for struggling fathers. This movement has changed the perspective of many of our younger students on their own mental health and the materials they provide for schools have helped our staff deliver mental health workshops that have been really engaging.”
After losing his friend it took Oliver until the final year of university, when pressures got to an all-time high, that he decided to seek counselling.
He booked a 30 minute slot with the on-campus team at Loughborough University and ended up staying for 90 minutes.
He said: “It was one of the most cathartic experiences of my life, years of not talking about how I felt had built up and finally the dam broke.
“My mental state slowly started to piece together, from injuries preventing me from playing the sport I love to, why my five year long distance relationship broke down, things I didn’t know I had suppressed suddenly made sense. I left that session with a huge weight off my shoulders and the ability to rationalise my thoughts.
“Now I’m not saying I am perfect now, I still have my moments, but both me and my friends are now comfortable talking about it. Since Jimmy’s passing we made a pact that no issue is ever to small, no topic too awkward to talk with each other about as none of us ever want to be in the position we found ourselves in seven years ago.”
Globally, men die 4.5 years earlier than women, largely for preventable reasons, so every moustache grown, event or challenge organised, drives conversations and raises much-needed funds and awareness of men’s health issues, which ultimately saves lives.
The 2021 Movember campaign comes at a crucial time, as we battle an ongoing silent mental health crisis, heightened by the pressures of economic and social effects of COVID-19.
Recent figures from the ONS show three out of four suicides in the UK are men, a statistic which has remained relatively consistent since the mid-90s.
In 2020 alone, according to ONS data, the UK lost 3,925 men to suicide – that’s 10 men every day.
In addition to tackling key health issues faced by men, Movember is working to encourage men to stay healthy in all areas of their life, with a focus on men staying socially connected and becoming more open to discussing their health and significant moments in their lives.
The charity’s vision is to have an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health.
For anyone struggling with their mental health, Oliver said: “There are two things that I suggest; one is seek help, don’t be afraid to tell someone you’re not alright, the hardest part is taking that first step.
“The second is surround yourself with good people; through life people will come and go, but if you can keep a solid core, doesn’t have to be many, just people who you understand and who understand you.
“While a lot of what I have said has been about negative mental health I think it is important to realise that it can be both good and bad. Every single one of us has mental health in one form or another, we have good days and we have dark days.
“Treat it like your physical health; you try to keep in good shape but if you’re ill you see a doctor, if you’re injured you would rest, I don’t see why the same shouldn’t apply to your mental health.
“Do the things that make you happy, surround yourself with the right people and the rest will follow, but if you do have a slump or something bad happens then don’t be afraid to go to the right people to help you.”
Committed to disrupting the status quo, millions have joined the movement, helping fund over 1,250 projects focusing on mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer.
Michelle Terry, Movember CEO, said: “As a charity, we work to raise funds to deliver innovative, breakthrough research and support programmes that enable men to live happier, healthier and longer lives. Committed to disrupting the status quo, millions have joined the movement, helping fund over 1,250 projects around the world.
“In addition to tackling key health issues faced by men, Movember is working to encourage men to stay healthy in all areas of their life, with a focus on men staying socially connected and becoming more open to discussing their health and significant moments in their lives.”
But if you are unable to grow a moustache there are other ways you can raise funds for the charity.
You can make a move - run or walk 60km over the month. That’s 60km for the 60 men we lose to suicide each hour, every hour across the world.
Host a mo-ment - get your friends together and do something fun and easy, virtual or in person. Hosting is all about having a good time for a good cause.
Mo your own way - Whether it’s a gruelling test of physical endurance or some other wildcard idea. Whether it’s a day, over several weeks or across the year – take whatever Mo Your Own Way means to you and run with it.