A bundled up young Mo Bro poses at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, with an epic vista behind him. The sign reads "Congratulations you are now at Uhuru Peak"
"The Mo is saying that they care, that they support you."Image by: Tanner Zachem
A bundled up young Mo Bro poses at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, with an epic vista behind him. The sign reads "Congratulations you are now at Uhuru Peak"
1 September 2023

Tanner’s mental health message: You can talk to your friends about anything

6 minutes read time

I first got involved with Movember my first year of college, as a show of support for a friend who had recently been diagnosed with testicular cancer. We grew moustaches, raised awareness and started conversations around campus. That’s when I really fell in love with the message. It was a month that reminded me of the anxieties I grew up with, the stresses I had felt – how difficult the decision was to go see a therapist, but how good it made me feel. It was a time for me to share my story and spread that message that it’s okay to ask for help, and that you can talk to your friends about anything.

The stress and anxiety started to build up

I was a really anxious kid – that’s just the best way to put it. I was always stressed and anxious about things. I would often feel overwhelmed, and I kind of just thought that was normal. It built up as I grew up, but I was able to handle it for a long time. It wasn't until later in high school, when I lost a loved one, that I realized that there was just too much on my plate – it felt like there were too many things to handle at once – and I started to struggle.

Days got rough. It wasn’t fun waking up every morning, it felt like going through the meat grinder. Every day was just another lap around the track of life, and I wasn’t finding that enjoyment in life that makes it so amazing. There were countless nights where I was so anxious I couldn’t sleep. It was really hard.

The conversation that changed everything

It wasn’t until one of my friends – an amazing friend – sat me down and asked me what the hell was happening. She said to me, “Anytime anyone has a sore throat, you tell them to go to the pediatrician. If you roll your ankle, you go to the doctor. You’re struggling with feeling anxious right now, you’re not feeling great – go talk to a professional.” I put up a bit of a fight, saying I didn’t need it – just that knee jerk reaction to the stigma that’s been built up around receiving mental health treatment. It was a really hard conversation, but hearing it so bluntly really hit me. It was absolutely a turning point in my mental health journey. I went to my parents, and I told them I wanted to talk to someone. I am so lucky that they immediately supported it. Within a week, I was sitting down to have a conversation with a professional and it was the best decision of my entire life.

Finding therapy

I was able to work through things, talk about why I feel a certain way, and what it might be related to. It finally felt like I could take some of those weights off and I was able to see things a bit clearer. Day by day a little more color came back into the sky. It helped to teach me to ride the wave and that frequently, its best to just see the arisings of emotion, sit with them, and instead of fighting them, just note them. I have happily seen a mental health professional for the last 6 years, and I don’t think there will ever be a time in my life that I don’t see one. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If anything, I think seeing a mental health provider just makes us better. We become more loving and compassionate people to not only ourselves but also to the other humans that we interact with every day. We have something in common with every other person on this planet: being a person, so why not do something that helps us be more kind to ourselves and each other.

How to start an important conversation with a friend

I’ve experienced it from both sides – my friend having the conversation with me, and me having the conversation with other friends. Taking care of the people in our life is the most important thing we can do as humans. We are social creatures, and it’s crucial to look out for each other. When I’ve noticed something changes a little bit day by day with someone, for example their humor might start to change, or they’re less talkative than they usually are, that it’s so important to take notice of these things. These things let us know it may be time to send the extra “How is the day going text”, or even just give more space and/or time for them to talk.

It can be hard to bring up these feelings because you don’t want to encroach on someone, and we must respect everyone’s boundaries. But by giving them the space and letting them know that their happiness and their life experience is so important to you, we can create an environment for open and honest conversation. It’s almost a certainty that everyone will have rough points in life, and it is a special moment for us to serve our family, friends, and other people in those times. Moments where they are experiencing those same difficult emotions you have felt (and probably will again feel). Simply letting someone know that you care, that their health and happiness is the single most important thing to you can go a really long way. In my opinion, the beauty of life is in caring so deeply for each other in difficult moments like this. It’s an honor to serve someone with a conversation like this. You’re broaching a very difficult, stigmatized topic, but you’re letting them know that they have a support system that’s there for them, and that is the most important thing.

Taking the stigma out of mental health

There’s such a stigma around mental health treatment. That it implies you’re weak, or that you’re not good enough, but with some simple logic we can debunk this.

You go to the gym to get physically stronger, so why not go to the mental gym to get mentally stronger? Working out helps prevent injuries, why not do the same thing for our mental health. If you’re able to talk about it without the stigma around it, it’s completely logical, right? You work out every day. Why not work your head out, with someone who has trained their whole life to serve and care for people. Why not do something that makes life a little bit better, will help you be a little bit more resilient, and even make you find joy in things you never have before. You may stretch, foam roll, or do some recovery after a run or workout. So why do we have a stigma around doing mental recovery after all of the events and emotions that arise in life?

Starting conversations with Movember

Movember gives us a month where these conversations can arise very naturally. The people in your life who grow out a moustache (or support you to grow one out)? They’re the people you’re lucky to have in your corner, that will start these conversations. This is what I love about this community. If someone has a moustache, you can definitely go and talk to them about it, because they’re telling you that they’re there for you – it’s right on their face. It’s the first thing you see. The Mo is saying that they care, that they support you, and that they’re there to fight the good fight with you.

If you spot a friend whose behavior 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 movember.com/getsupport for crisis support options. To speak with someone immediately, contact your local 24-hour support service.