West Lincoln fire department battles for awareness of men’s health issues

In West Lincoln, the fire department is battling more than just fires.

The battle for awareness of men’s health, both mental and physical, is a visible one for some of the firefighters, as they grow out their moustaches for Movember.

“Movember” is the name of a movement in which men don’t shave their moustaches for the month of November, to raise awareness for men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer and suicide prevention and collect money for the causes as they keep progress of their facial hair growth.

Firefighter David McCausland brought the idea up to his colleagues at the fire department. For McCausland, who had two family members who have already faced cancer, it was important to raise awareness for these causes.

“Any time you get any awareness of any cancer, even if it’s just one person, know that there’s a support line out there and other people are also thinking of you at the time, even if they aren’t going through it themselves,” he said.

“I know I look kind of funny with the moustache, but it’s for the cause,” he said, as he touched on the importance of having a visible indicator of his campaign on his face.

“It’s just so that somebody sees something physical and knows that we’re actually doing something for a good cause,” McCausland said.

Tamara Clark, the only female firefighter in the West Lincoln fire department, is also taking part in the campaign and collecting funds.

“Mental health is a big focus for us in the fire department,” she said.

She said the job of a firefighter can be especially mentally exhausting and so mental health initiatives are especially valuable in her field.

She added that the fire department has a critical incident stress team, a team formulated for the purpose of staying connected and helping out those of their firefighters who may need it.

“I think that the fire department holds a position in the community that people do tend to look up to,” said deputy chief Tim Hofsink.

“As leaders in the community, we have an obligation to try and be a good example.”

He said discussions about men’s physical and mental health were important and if growing moustaches is what it takes to “engage people in that conversation, I think that that’s incredibly beneficial.”

According to the Movember campaign, one in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime and the most common kind of cancer in young men is testicular cancer. In Canada, 75 per cent of suicides are by men and it remains the second leading cause of death for men aged 15-44.

In its 15th year as a campaign in Canada, Movember encourages “Mo Bros” and “Mo Sisters” across the country to participate by collecting funds in different ways, including growing a moustache, getting active, kicking a habit or hosting a fundraiser event. In its time as a campaign, Movember has launched more than 1,200 projects globally that focus on research and prevention of various men’s health issue, 300 of which are in Canada.

Along with McCausland and Clark, firefighters Andrew Barry, Phil Hoover, Dylan Schoeneberg and Jordan Thompson are all taking part in Movember. Those interested in supporting the West Lincoln fire department can go to Movember.com and search for the West Lincoln Fire Department’s donation page.