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Moving from the Moustache to the Mind

*By Jiries Rabba*

The uncomfortable conversation we need to have about mental health before Movember moves on…

Thousands of men are getting ready to mow down their Movember moustaches. Before long, the outward signs of the campaign will all but fade away. But, have we done enough to publicly discuss one of the newer educational pillars and beneficiary causes of the movement: mental health and suicide prevention?

Incorporating mental health awareness into this global campaign was a very deliberate and noble decision. It’s unfortunate that it still seems underexposed, especially since mental health has an impact on all aspects of one’s life. If you’re suffering from depression or any of the other mental health issues that plague our society, you’re likely not in a state to take care of yourself or control your quality of life. In many ways, it’s the mind that matters the most.

We’ve spent decades, if not longer, shunning the topic, which is all the more reason to talk about it. Yes, the conversation will be awkward. Yes, the conversation will be uncomfortable. Yet, this uncomfortable conversation is one we all need to have –especially with and among men.

Mental health touches my heart. I developed an acute eating disorder some eight years ago. It was the toughest time of my life in many ways and the mind was at the centre of it. Having bulimia came with many different problems, including a perpetual fear of gaining weight and falling back to where I used to be; of losing everything for which I worked hard, because I ate a cupcake or another sweet. The mind games, with real outcomes, were emotionally and physically draining. The act of throwing up made my throat so sore, that it felt raw and left my stomach aching beyond belief. While the genesis of this behaviour lay in my mind, the physical symptoms only served to impact my mind for the worse. It was a truly vicious cycle. It took me a long time to realize the role of my mind.  It was only through the mind that I was able to move my mouth to utter my first plea for help.

At the beginning, I kept my thoughts and actions secret because I felt embarrassed. Finally, two years ago, I was able to broach the topic with my wife for the first time. Looking back, I can’t help but think I should have opened up sooner.

Having one conversation is where it all begins. It’s the start that counts.

Once that’s done, there’s no limit to how things can evolve. For me, this first showing of vulnerability allowed people to come in and provide an outpouring of care and concern, which pushed me down the right path. Eventually, this process led me to searching for simple solutions – meal replacements and healthy snacks that could give my cravings some satisfaction, while avoiding junk food and binge eating that had plagued me. From that, PrOATein Lifestyle Bars were born. I launched PrOATein to help others struggling, like me, to learn how to create balance in their lives. How you feel on the inside is how you’re going to look and feel on the outside and so many people struggle to find that balance of physical activity, healthy eating, and having the motivation to better yourself in general. I know, because I was there, and it’s not somewhere I ever want to be again.

It’s unrealistic to think I’ll be able to pull someone out of a serious mental health illness through a single column or article. But I can encourage Canadians to start the conversation. Like the moustache, the conversation doesn’t have to be perfect. Awkward phrases can lead to support and success in turning things around. So as you shave the moustache, be sure to broach the topic and let the conversations grow from there.

To learn more about Jiries and his story, visit:

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