Movember (a portmanteau of moustache and November) is a month-long campaign to raise awareness and funds for men’s health. The three focus areas of the campaign are prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s mental health and suicide prevention. After the annual campaign started in 2003, it has gained traction worldwide, and Heriot-Watt University has embraced the work. Over the last four years, Heriot-Watt has raised over £85,000 as a community to support Movember.
One of this year’s Movember Student Ambassadors is Aonghus Sellar, a postgraduate student studying his MSc in International Marketing and Consumer Psychology. This is Aonghus’s second year as Movember Student Ambassador, after raising over £15,000 in 2021 while studying Brewing and Distilling; this year he shares the post with Calum Macpherson, and they have raised over £22,000 for the campaign.
Aonghus’s father is another champion of Movember, campaigning through his work, rugby clubs and with friends every year. “Seeing the annual rogue moustache must have been subliminal messaging,” Aonghus says. “But the biggest reason I am so invested in Movember is thanks to Stewart Morgan, who was Heriot-Watt’s Movember Ambassador in 2020.
The reason I ‘Mo’ is to campaign for all the dads, uncles, granddads, brothers, cousins, mates and more - it's all for them.
“Stewart and I became friends through the volunteering programme at the Sports Union, and I learned his story of how he was diagnosed and a survivor of testicular cancer. I was completely blindsided by the fact that someone who was 21 years of age had been diagnosed with cancer. It really shook my understanding and naivety of being young and healthy - somehow, I thought we were invincible.
“That motivated me to get involved with Movember and to carry on the work of being a Movember Ambassador after Stewart graduated. In short, the reason I ‘Mo’ is to campaign for all the dads, uncles, granddads, brothers, cousins, mates and more - it's all for them.”
After Aonghus started participating in Movember, some people were sceptical; but more for his physical appearance of growing a moustache, Aonghus says. “My dad asked me, which I remember very clearly, ‘Why would you want to underline a nose that big?’”
“However, people are in general very supportive of my campaigns, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of people willing to take that step alongside me. I’ve fundraised over £5,000 in my own campaigns, and even more on behalf of Heriot-Watt University.”
Men die, on average, four and a half years earlier than women, an average that is pulled down by cancer and suicide. “The statistics surrounding men’s health are alarming,” Aonghus says. “Globally we lose a man every minute of the day to suicide. Over ten million men live with prostate cancer, and testicular cancer is the most common cancer for men between 15 and 39.
“A lot of these cancers are detected later than they could be. Movember aims to raise awareness for men which can crucially aid in early, lifesaving detection of prostate and testicular cancer.”
Aonghus explains that when it comes to mental health, starting the dialogue is vital – but also incredibly difficult. “It’s hard to open up when you’re struggling. Movember has created toolkits to help with having those kinds of conversations, like ALEC,” he says. “ALEC stands for Ask, Listen, Encourage and Check-in.”
Given the cost-of-living crisis and other financial stressors this November, Aonghus and Calum kept their expectations low as to how much they would raise – only to be blown away by the generosity and support of the Heriot-Watt community. “We’ve raised over £5,000 more than we did last year, which is miles above our expectations for this year’s campaign,” Aonghus says. “This shows that people know how important this is – together, we can stop men dying too young from preventable causes.”
While Movember only runs for the month of November, men’s health is an important topic all year round. When talking about how to bring the ethos of Movember into the rest of the year, Aonghus talks about the importance of looking out for one another. “As I previously said, it's all for the men in our lives – whether it’s encouraging them to go to the GP, speak about what’s going on in their lives, or seek further help. We want to improve not only their lives, but the lives of those they care about and who care about them. Men’s health affects everyone, not just men, just as women’s health affects everyone.”
For those considering participating in Movember next year, Aonghus’s advice is, “Have fun with it! In the three years that I’ve been a fundraiser for Movember, there’s never been a dull moment, and that’s all thanks to challenges and events. From running five kilometres every day to climbing a Munro every day, setting a challenge is an excellent way to start the conversation on what Movember is and why you’re doing it.
“Whether you can grow a moustache or not, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved, and helping hands are always needed.”