Our Hawke boys addressed pupils in Chapel last week on ‘Movember’, wearing fake moustaches to demonstrate the tradition of men growing their facial hair in November to raise awareness for men's mental health.
They used ‘Justin’s Story’ as a true experience of someone who has faced mental health challenges, before highlighting the importance of spreading awareness of men's mental health.
From the outside looking in, 2012 should have been the best year of Justin Geange’s life. He had a loving wife and daughters, his voice had carried him to the semi-finals of Australia’s Got Talent and he was planning a tilt at State politics.
But by August the following year, Justin very nearly took his own life, in the wake of being made redundant after nearly 20 years with the same company. “Looking back, it was like sitting in the front row of the movies… I just couldn’t see the bigger picture.” The redundancy wasn’t unexpected and nor was it the only reason for what was to come, but for Justin, hitting the age of 41 with no job and no prospect of getting one was a major blow. “To cut a long story short, I reached the point where I believed I was a complete failure and I thought that my family would be better off without me.”
Thanks mainly to his wife Marnie’s instincts, Justin opened his eyes in hospital and got the chance to see just how much he’d misunderstood his place in the world. “It was like I’d let off a hand grenade which hadn’t just hit the people closest to me, but sprayed shrapnel far and wide.” “Mates started rocking up one after the other – blokey, salt of the earth types - who wanted to tell me they cared and how devastated they were. For Justin, those bedside conversations were the first steps towards recovery and the inspiration that changed the direction of his life. “In truth, there are a lot of blokes out there doing it tough, but the tragedy is, we don’t talk about it. “It’s time we started.”
For his part, Justin now works part-time helping people adjust to life after being institutionalised and studying for a psychology degree. But he doesn’t underestimate the task ahead. “Recovery’s a journey, not a destination and that means there are slips backward as well as steps forward. “We’re not all round pegs in round holes and for me, things started to make sense when I found Cameron, a caseworker who spoke to me in the down-to-earth, honest way that I needed.” Not surprisingly, Justin’s experience has also had a profound influence on his art. “These days, I write songs that remind me to ask questions; songs that talk about how important it is to look after each other and how it’s often the small things that get us through life.”
That last observation inspired something Justin does on the anniversary of his experience; a simple act he calls the $5 challenge. “Take five dollars and buy someone a coffee or a beer or whatever and just have a chat. “You’ll probably have no idea at the time, but a single conversation can change a life, or maybe even save one.”
Globally, on average, 1 man dies by suicide every minute of every day. The rate of male suicide is alarmingly high: 3 out of 4 suicides in the UK are by men.
Movember is a month-long event in which people are encouraged to grow moustaches in order to raise (or grow) awareness of and funding for research related to men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health.
Although Movember is based on the idea of growing a moustache during the month, it’s not limited to that, and many people observe it in other ways. Movember looks at mental health through a male lens, focusing on prevention, early intervention and health promotion.
We need to work towards a world where men take action to be mentally well and are supported by those around them.
During anti-bullying week, Dr McConnell reminded us about the Good Samaritan who showed mercy to someone in need. Christianity teaches us to love our neighbour. Movember is time we remember this too.
Justin spends time each year talking to someone and sharing a drink; in that action he is loving his neighbour. He is loving his neighbour by listening to them, by sharing and by supporting their mental health.
We’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Remember to be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.