By Ben Fleming
Movember has become something of a regular fixture in Durham’s fundraising calendar over the last few years, with sports teams all over the University growing questionable upper lip hair to raise money for the charity which mainly aims to address the ongoing stigma surrounding men’s mental health.
This year’s fundraising efforts have been met with the same fervour and enthusiasm as years gone by from Durham’s sporting outfits. However, this year it undoubtedly carries greater importance at this time of great social isolation, with the lasting effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the arrival of a second national lockdown.
Mental health is not something that can just go left untreated and uncared for. As students return to or arrive at university this year, with all the challenges that this presents at the best of times, not being able to meet new people or see a familiar face out and about or on the sports pitches can drastically affect one’s mental health.
For these reasons, as fundraising efforts get underway and continue for the entirety of November, college and University sports clubs have been keen to spread the message, more than ever in these difficult times.
As a member of Josephine Butler Football Club, who have raised nearly £3,000 already, put it to me, “simply starting a conversation with your friends and family about it can make a great and worthwhile difference” in much the same way as donating can.
In terms of donations, Durham University Rugby Club (DURFC) has led the way with their Movember campaign raising more than £5,000 in the first two weeks alone. Speaking to Palatinate, club captain Dan Blackman is extremely proud of the levels of fundraising the club has achieved so far this month.
“We’ve put even more effort this year into our online Movember page, which currently has around 50 members and has raised more than £5,000,” he said. “Some of the boys have taken it upon themselves to complete a set amount of running during November and we also have some plans for the last week of the month which you might see around town.”
Normally, DURFC would raise money through their first XV’s home games but, in its absence, Dan and the club are keen to ensure that friendly club ethos is not lost by “encouraging everyone to check in on their mates” during these times.
Durham University Cricket Club (DUCC), whose season does not start for several months, have raised more than £1,300, largely through running 230km in the first 13 days between the team. However, their efforts have extended beyond the more traditional fundraising routes and they are keen to ensure they spread the message within the club.
They recently held a webinar for the players with Lewis Baxter, a public speaker and founder of mental health advocacy charity, The Blurred Line, to ensure the players are comfortable speaking out about their emotions in this difficult time and beyond.
As one of the more newly established university-wide clubs, Durham University Touch Rugby Club (DUTRC) have managed superbly to raise more than £1,750 during the first two weeks.
DUTRC said it was “great to see more numbers getting involved with Movember this year.” Furthermore, as one of the few mixed-gender sports in Durham, the club can open a healthy dialogue between men and women when it comes to mental health.
“As a mixed team we’re used to breaking down boundaries placed upon us about gender in sport – by having a strong showing from both our MoBros and MoSisters we are presenting our support and taking a stand against ignoring mental health issues as a whole.”
The sheer number of clubs taking part, both University and college-based, are too numerous to mention in one article. However, the positive strides being made by each club in cumulatively raising more than £18,000 so far shows that the discourse around men’s mental health is growing, and that can only be a positive sign.