The Intelligent Workplace

The Intelligent Workplace

Episode 20

It’s Movember…let’s get serious, Mental Health in the workplace is a major concern.

Travis Garone
Movember Foundation Co-Founder

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The Intelligent Workplace podcast is more than a technology discussion. There are many other cultural and societal issues shaping the future workplace.
 
Mental Health is one of those such issues, and it is having a real effect on the workplaces of today. Global statistics detailing the people affected by mental health issues are confronting. We must do more as a society to address the problem.
 
The Movember Foundation has been raising awareness for men’s health issues since 2008. Almost two decades later, and what began with 30 mates growing moustaches to raise funds, now boasts 5 million supporters Mo’ Bros and Mo’ Sistas. Recently,  Movember has increased it’s focus on raising awareness of mental health issues.
 

On this episode, Movemeber Co-Founder Travis Garone discusses the the success of their movement and how we as a society are tackling mental health issues.

Episode Links
https://au.movember.com/
https://www.livetiles.nyc/livesmiles-intelligent-wellness-solution-movember-edition

Chris:                    

Welcome to the Intelligent Workplace podcast, Travis Garone.

Travis:                  

Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

Chris:                    

Great to have you here, mate. Let’s take a quick walk down memory lane with you. It’s 2003 and you had, let’s call it, a unique idea to raise awareness of men’s health issues, didn’t you?

Travis:                  

Yeah, we did. Luke and myself, we’re affectionately known as lucky, and actually, he is quite lucky. We had an idea, there was basically a sort of a simple thing in front of us that we kind of just wanted to disrupt the charitable space, and create something purely for men. You know, sort of the old saying, “By men, for men.” I think since 2003 we’ve just been running and trying to keep up with this thing, to be honest.

Chris:                    

Fair enough. Can I pick you up on you said Lucky was lucky? Why so?

Travis:                  

Look what he created, one of the biggest men’s health movements on the planet. I mean, he isn’t always lucky. I beat him in the first mustache growing competition and I’ve sort of picked him at the post ever since. He’s a big, big part of sort of the ideation of Movember and the gift he’s given us to the world, men’s health.

Chris:                    

Now, as I said in the opener, you started off with around 30 mates growing it. By round about 2007, you’d gone global with the movement and things really started to take off, didn’t they?

Travis:                  

Yeah. In 2003, basically Luke and I, sort of let’s email everyone we know. Probably out of a hundred odd people, again, this is, the internet was pretty fresh for us back then. We got 30 guys. Fast forward to 2007, we were creating the board of directors, which Luke and my brother, the CEO at the time, had sat on. One of our biggest success factors, I think, is the fact that we’re just really naïve to what we were trying to achieve.

Travis:                  

If we knew then what we know now, you just wouldn’t do it. You’d just like, “Wow, too hard. Where do you even start?” But we were just so fresh and bright eyed, and naïve to what we were embarking on.

Travis:                  

Actually in 2007, to get back to your question, we expanded into seven countries throughout the northern hemisphere and Europe. When you think, now, about what it takes to get into one country, we did seven in one year.

Travis:                   

Including running already established Australia and New Zealand. That was big. That was really big. I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone. We pulled it off.

Chris:                    

On behalf of all the people you’ve helped over the years, I’m so glad you didn’t put this one into the too hard basket. Because now you’ve got something like five million participants in the movement and a lot of corporate partners involved, assisting you, as well.

Travis:                  

Yeah we do. We’ve five or six million that we’re aware of. They’re the ones that actually, physically get on and register on Movember.com, or sign up to either growing a mustache, hosting one of our events, or sort of doing the MOVE program, if you like. Then again, with those great Aussie blokes and dudes out on the street, when you sort of meet a lot of people, you’re like, “Did you register”? They’re like, “Nah, what’s that”. [crosstalk 00:05:46] register for Movember.

Travis:                  

The number of people that’ve actually grown mustaches or sort of supported their loved one with a mustache, we just have no idea. Because remember, it’s a lot more than that. This is our 16th year. Then, obviously, the corporate world and corporate Australia have been amazing. Australians in every way, shape, or form are very special humans that really know how to give and support.

Chris:                    

It really has grown. I remember doing it back in around 2006, and being in Hobart you’d walk through the street and see these other guys growing dirty mustaches, and you just look at each other and give a little nod or a small that sort of thing, knowing that you’re a part of something that is great.

Travis:                  

Yeah, the mo-bro nod. A little drop of the chin just to acknowledge that I’m dealing with something as itchy as you are right now. Then you’ve got the mo-sisters, a wink and a smile when you’ve got this kind of creepy looking thing on your lip, it goes a long way, it really does. I still do it today. Even on the way to work yesterday, there was a guy on a bike at the traffic light between Melbourne, and we both had a little grin to each other going, “Yep. I know what you’re going through, buddy.” For a good cause.

Chris:                    

It is a good cause. Sort of to the more serious side of things, I mentioned in the opener that the statistics on mental health issues in society today are quite confronting. Can you give us a bit of an idea of the situation that we’re faced with?

Travis:                  

Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s very fair and reasonable to say that men’s health is in crisis. Guys are dying too young, on average it’s about four years earlier than women. There’s no sort of real reason for that, there’s no need for that, to be honest. There’s still stereotypes about guys not wanting to talk about their health and their problems. We’ve got guys sort of labeled under that stereotype, whether it’s true or not, it’s sort of still hindrance. Three out of four suicides are by guys, in Australia.

Chris:                    

Wow, I didn’t know that.

Travis:                  

Six blokes take their life every week, in Australia.

Chris:                    

Wow, wow.

Travis:                  

Yeah, I feel sick just saying it. Prostate cancer’s still the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian men. One in six will be diagnosed by the time I think they’re, I think it’s about 85 or something. I mean, survival rates are much better and they’re improving. Now it’s about sort of living with or beyond having the prostate cancer.

Travis:                  

We also look at testicular cancer as well, which is the most common cancer in young guys. Almost, I think it’s just under 100 percent, like 98 percent of guys with testicular cancer, that are being diagnosed, will survive it. That’s kind of not the problem. It’s about the quality of life and everything that goes after that.

Travis:                  

It’s still, there’s a lot to do. I talked about being naïve from the start. It’s once you sort of realize that these numbers are still so serious, you kind of realize also that millions of dollars are great, but it takes billions of dollars to really have significant impact. So, I thought, and Luke, we thought 10 years … Again, naïve, like 10 years we’d only need to do this for, but we’re realizing we’ve only just begun.

Chris:                    

Yeah. It seems the other way, like in the last sort of five to ten years, that the mental health issue that you also address, seems to be getting worse and worse. Or is there just more awareness, perhaps?

Travis:                  

Listen, there’s a lot more awareness, which is a good thing, technically speaking. I think anyone with serious mental health issues and problems don’t want to always be reminded every time they sort of open their eyes to the world, that it’s a thing. We have to do this. I think the numbers are getting worse, and we need to break down the stigma of masculinity and just get guys to feel comfortable that they can talk to someone.

Travis:                  

One of the biggest things I’ve learned along the Movember journey is the fact that I wholeheartedly went into this thing going, “Guys don’t talk.” The old Aussie, “She’ll be right, mate,” kind of mentality. “Guys don’t care about their health.” That was such a big driver for why we came up with growing a mustache, and having this sort of catalyst for conversation or this billboard walking around time. Guys do care, they care just as much as the women in our lives. They do talk, we just need to be able to give them a platform, give ourselves a platform and more of a breathing space to have the kind of conversations that we want to have with the kind of people we want to have them with.

Travis:                  

It’s definitely all there. We live in a huge country, as you’re absolutely well aware. You live in one of the nicer parts, to be honest. It’s a big place, the tyranny of distance, and making sure that people and guys can stay socially connected, is an absolutely huge, important part of this.

Chris:                    

It sounds terrible to say that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. I mean, how much worse can it get? There are people dying, as you say, so often. We have all been touched by suicide in our lives, pretty much, these days. It’s crazy.

Travis:                  

Yeah. It absolutely is. I don’t even want to say this, but I think it is going to get a little bit worse before we get better. I think Australians are definitely of the mindset that, “Stuff’s got to get bad before we break through the other side.” So I know we’re all a resilient bunch, but just the numbers, I think of the guys we’re going to lose over the course of the next however many months or years, and what we’re all doing about it. I’m super proud of … Movember’s a big team, and I’m so, so proud of … We’re just having a cracker at it, we’re just trying to leave the world in a better place than what we found it. That’s all.

Chris:                    

That’s nice. Mate, it’s probably hard to sort of put a number on it, but do you have any kind of idea on how the mental health issues affect businesses in terms of productivity, and I guess, ultimately their bottom line?

Travis:                  

Yeah, yeah. Let’s just say, mental health, there was some research out in October. I think it kind of basically stated that the Australian economy is affected through mental illness. I think it’s about 60 billion dollars a year. I think it’s a rough cost, business costs of around 30 billion in lost wages, and reduced productivity. Then, obviously, with all the support platforms as well.

Travis:                  

It’s big numbers. One in five people, I think it’s basically pretty fair to say that will be affected by a mental health issue through depression, anxiety being the two big boys. Movember’s also released some research in September of this year. We sort of found that one in three employed Australian men fear that their job could be at risk, and that basically has a very direct relationship to mental health at work. It’s really prominent.

Travis:                  

Like you said, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. We’re exposing all this stuff. I think that’s what’s very in Australian’s general. From the [inaudible 00:13:52] and the mining sector, through to the Topper town in Sydney. Everyone is willing to talk about this. I think that’s the beauty of the Aussie spirit, that we’re not afraid to have the tough conversations. I think we’re all willing to have them. We will need to have them, those tough, honest conversations, with ourselves and the ones around us before we can make it better.

Chris:                    

What you’re saying there about raising the awareness, and we’re having these conversations, personally it really has made a difference for me, becoming more aware. I mean it’s interesting, I’m in my 40s, and for the first time ever in my working career, here at LiveTiles, I was faced with a colleague dealing with a mental health issue. I’ll be the first to say that I was completely unprepared for it, and it was really challenging for me. To LiveTiles’ credit, they were 100 percent all in on supporting everybody involved.

Chris:                    

Are you finding that sort of companies are having to “get with the program” if you like, and take this issue more seriously? Because it’s no longer good enough to be able to bury your head in the sand.

Travis:                  

Yeah, absolutely. I’m sort of the same, I’m mid 40s. Don’t know the exact number, but I know there was some research, and I think one of the spikes in suicide within men is in their early 40s. I was the same thing, I’ve sort of dealt with some very close, special people in my life that also who’ve “danced with the devil” so to speak.

Travis:                  

Companies have to, they have to show a level of care and responsibility, and be prepared for the tough conversation. None of us … Again, it’s very hard to say, but when people are struggling so much. So courageous when you see colleagues and whatnot, they get out of bed every morning and face the world, whether they are wearing their mask or not. I think it’s the other people that have the responsibility to understand, and have the responsibility to check in with your colleagues or check in with your mates.

Travis:                  

It’s so easy to not check in, that’s the easiest thing to do. It is, avoid the path of least resistance kind of thing, or kind of the niceties of, “Hey mate, how ya going? What’s going on? How’s the misses?” Or whatever. It’s having those second and third questions that you can really sort of dig deep. It’s again …

Travis:                  

I’ll take this back. Someone said to me many, many years ago. “Oh, god, you’re going to make prostate cancer sexy, huh?” It’s now okay to talk about. It’s now okay to go and get checked. Whether that’s your PSA’s or your physical exam, whatever it is. Also, researchers and whatnot, they used to go straight out of university and medical school straight into breast cancer or malaria because they’re well funded.

Travis:                  

Prostate cancer is now quite well funded, and it’s attractive for people, smart minds, to go and sort of tackle it. Mental health is the same. We’re still in that awkward phase of trying to-

Chris:                    

Yeah, absolutely.

Travis:                  

… I don’t know, expose it or make it a common conversation, if you like, from both sides.

Chris:                    

Actually, on that point, during that time in my working life where we had this shit that we were dealing with. One of the guys who I really respect, he said to me when I was having trouble dealing with it, he said, “What if that person had cancer or had lost an arm, was losing their hair, and you could actually see the pain that they were going through? Would that make you understand more? Would that change your reaction to his situation?”

Chris:                    

It was like smacking me in the face with a bat. I was like, “Yeah, it would. It really would,” but because I can’t see what that person is going through, I really had trouble relating and understanding.

Travis:                  

Absolutely. I think humans, we need numbers in our lives to help guide us. Whether that’s driving the car at a certain speed or knowing bank accounts, we need some basic things to help guide us. A visual aspect is a huge, important part of how the humans move through the world. When you can’t see something or you can’t label something, it takes a whole nother level of understanding and care to be able to want to understand.

Travis:                  

You know when you hear the word cancer, what you’ve got. Mental health is still very broad, it’s very specific to the individual, whether that’s socio economical sort of aspect or age, maybe it’s your sexual orientation, I don’t know. It’s so complex and it can’t just be solved with one word or sort of one view of the world, it’s really seeking to understand. I think that’s why it is so difficult.

Travis:                  

I work in the world of branding and different subcultures. If I’m working with a skateboarding client, or a music client, or a surfing client … A bunch of surfers, they all kind of relatively look the same, they sound the same, it’s a tribe, a visual tribe. Mental health is such a thing that runs deep inside us, that it’s not visible. The signs of you know, maybe … they say if you kind of notice the signs of a colleague, or they’re going to be quiet, or they’re not showing up to work. It’s a very … I don’t know you have to be very brave to sort of jump straight into, “Are you struggling with mental health?”

Chris:                    

I’m hearing you.

Travis:                  

No one knows what goes on behind closed doors in people’s lives. It might just be an issue with your loved one or it’s something very simple. You can’t also kind of jump … It’s tricky, it’s so tricky. It’s a daily kind of commitment to be able to acknowledge, and be sensitive, and be aware of this kind of stuff going on around you.

Chris:                    

While raising money’s a massive help to tackling this issue, it’s not the be all and end all is it?

Travis:                  

It’s definitely not. That original sort of inception of Movember was about starting a conversation, that’s all it was. It was, “Let’s grow mo’s, let’s keep it simple. The mustache is our ribbon, it’s our badge. It’s our billboard, it’s our advertising.” It was kind of everything. The phrase we kind of used to throw around, and we still throw it around is, “The mustache is a catalyst for conversation.”

Chris:                    

Yeah.

Travis:                  

So, the money … Money’s an evil thing, isn’t it? It definitely moves the masses, it opens the doors. It allows you to sort of challenge and really kind of go after, rally governments and different medical organizations and tradition. That’s the reality of life, but you need both, and millions doesn’t do it. It is actually billions that it takes. I’m sort of thinking I’m going to have a mustache for a long time.

Travis:                  

So, yeah, having those conversations and changing behavior. Then wrap that around with a lot of cash and we’re in a good position to really leave the place in a better state than we found it.

Chris:                    

What are some of the positive changes you’ve seen as a result of the efforts of Movember?

Travis:                  

Personally, I’ve got two Uncles up in Darwin. Very early on, maybe in the 2007 to 2008, these are blokes blokes, blokes from the territory, “It’s tough at the top,” blah, blah, blah. When my uncle goes to me, “Hey, me and all the boys went and got prostate checks,” and all this kind of stuff. I just went, “Wow.”

Chris:                    

That is great.

Travis:                  

This is heart of Australia, right? This is the target audience of Bundy Rum. We’ve got there. So, that was a real kind of little slap in the face to me, personally, to say, “Wow, this is doing what it needs to do.” I think the challenging of the concept of masculinity and what that means today in every way, shape, and form. I think that’s amazing, the world’s doing some great things to question and challenge and change, in that regard.

Travis:                  

Conversations are a lot more prominent. Guys are getting regular checks. I think now it’s about living healthier, happier, and longer lives. We’re getting there. Again, we’ve got a huge demographic at Movember. We’ve got corporate partners that span very sort of different industries and sectors, if you like. I was always a big fan and kind of always very much trying to make sure Movember appealed to everyone.

Travis:                  

Why have one when you can have them all, kind of mentality. I think it was just for guys, that really. We’ve been able to reach so many corners of the country and the world. It’s not Green Peace or Red Cross by any means. You kind of get lost in your own head sometimes, but there has been some significant behavioral changes in guys. I think we can honestly put our hands on our hearts. Our tagline or our mission in life is to change the face of men’s health. It’s definitely changing. It’s really exciting to see.

Chris:                    

Well done, mate, you’re doing a great job. Look, it’s funny, you’re such an awesome advocate for this cause. I had plans to take this interview today in many different directions, talk more about businesses, and technology, being that we are a tech podcast. But I just think the fact that we’re having a conversation about these serious issues is probably enough for me.

Chris:                    

I think we’ve done our job here today in raising awareness for these important issues. I want to leave you with one thing. Those of us who are in the workplace, what can we do today, tomorrow, next week, to help protect our friends, colleagues, families, whatever the case may be from the black dog that is mental health issue?

Travis:                  

You know what? I really liked your question [inaudible 00:25:02]. I think it was like you just said, it felt very comfortable. It is good just to have a general chat.

Chris:                    

Yeah, it’s been great.

Travis:                  

To your point now, what are the simple things we can do from tomorrow. I’m a huge fan of keeping stuff simple. To all the ladies listening, men are simple creatures. All right, you didn’t need me to tell you that.

Travis:                  

What we can do simply, is actually really difficult. It’s hard. Check in, not out. Check in with your colleagues. Be a leader of encouraging conversations about the tough stuff. Encouragement to have these conversations or reminding your staff or your colleagues that they’re not looked down upon or marked down just because they’re willing to open up and say that they may be struggling in some aspects of their life. Reaching out. You’re never going to get slapped on the wrist or scolded for checking in with someone or asking questions.

Travis:                  

Today, people know how tough it is when they’ve got someone that’s probably in a fairly good state of mind coming to them. It’s all good, right, from both sides. I think if we can just acknowledge that, impart that-

Chris:                    

Good advice.

Travis:                  

Humor’s a great thing. Aussie’s are great at having a bit of wit or tongue in cheek. It’s okay to even … If you’re getting to a really serious point with a colleague, it’s okay to ask them questions about that end goal of suicide. Normalizing the conversation through seeking to understand is okay.

Chris:                    

You must know someone’s life.

Travis:                  

Absolutely. Just being able to say, “I’ll get online and research some phone numbers we can ring together,” or putting them in contact with lifelines or the Beyond Blues of the world, as well. As you’ve experienced personally, you can only do so much.

Travis:                  

The other thing I didn’t get to mention was, you as a sort of carer if you like, for a better word, you’ve got to make sure who’s looking after you, who’s helping you. Because when you’re put in these situations and you put yourself in there, more times than not, just remember that you’ve got to have some kind of support network around you, as well. Because we all need people in the world that can help. The carers are the ones that need a lot of love and support as well-

Chris:                    

Yeah, absolutely right.

Travis:                  

… at the end of the day. To answer your question, simply check in with your mates.

Chris:                    

Great words, mate, great words. Thanks so much for joining me today. You’ve really opened my eyes to the serious issue of mental health in today’s society. Hopefully those of us here at LiveTiles, we can help you in your efforts to raise a bit of awareness and look after those people who are suffering from mental health issues, or as you say, caring for people who have mental health issues, in their family or their workplace and maybe need the support of others to help those get through.

Chris:                    

It’s been a really, really important chat here today. I’ve really enjoyed the time we’ve spent together, sir. Thank you very much.

Travis:                  

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Chris:                    

Cheers, mate

 

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