Featured SPARKie: Moustaches for Mental Health

Despite many years of grassroots activism, the stigma surrounding men’s health and mental health continues today.


SPARKie Profile

Name: Ivy Lim-Carter

Organization: Movember

SPARK Year: 2014

URL: www.movember.com

“How do we Teach our Applicants about KT”?

Who could have thought that growing a moustache could become so significant? You may have seen university and college campuses filled with male students sporting bushy moustaches during the month of November, without truly understanding the reason behind the fun moustache competitions. Despite many years of grassroots activism, the stigma surrounding men’s health and mental health continues today. However, one organization has worked tirelessly to make a tremendous change within this narrative. Many across Canada have heard its name, Movember.

What is “Movember?”

Movember has been dubbed as “the leading charity changing the face of men’s health” with a focus on prostate, testicular cancers, and mental health and suicide prevention.   According to Movember, “Globally, every minute, a man dies by suicide. In Canada, 75% of suicides are men.”  The origin story of Movember is noteworthy and speaks to the power of ordinary people seeing a problem and rising up to make a difference. It all began with two friends hanging out in a bar in Melbourne, Australia. In 2013, Travis Garone and Luke Slatterly joked about the return of moustaches.  “Inspired by a friend’s mother who was fundraising for breast cancer, they decided to make the campaign about men’s health and prostate cancer.”  Garone and Slatterly resolved that their form of fundraising would be unique; they sought to inspire men to grow out their moustaches during the month of November as a way to raise awareness about men’s health. With that, “Movember” was born. What started as a conversation between two friends eventually grew to 30 and the rest is history. Today, the movement has raised over $1 billion and currently boasts 5 million moustaches grown in solidarity!

Where SPARK Comes In

Ivy Lim-Carter was a relatively new employee with Movember at the time that she submitted a SPARK training program application in 2014. Her workplace was experiencing change with the implementation of new mental health grant funding in Canada and Australia, and the need to integrate Knowledge Translation (KT) planning within their funded projects arose. According to Ivy, Movember’s Global Mental Health Lead, Dr. Clare Shann, had a passion for KT and as a new member to the organization herself, noticed that it wasn’t something that was being considered when application proposals were submitted for funding. They had a new goal to ensure that all project proposals included a robust KT plan to get knowledge derived from the projects into the hands of those who needed it, the men and the organizations who would be providing the programs or services they would be accessing.  To do this, application forms included a dedicated section for the teams’ KT Plan. The problem was that not only did applicants have little understanding of what integrated KT meant, it was viewed as an afterthought – an end-of-grant activity of publications or presentations. It was a completely different way to think and develop proposals which required working with their populations of focus to co-develop interventions and understanding why KT was an important element of the research process—the same problem affected many staff! Ivy relayed how they needed a global strategy for the organization. “Everyone still had not agreed upon a definition or interpretation of KT itself.  We were not always talking the same language. We needed an overall definition.”

It was during this time that SPARK registration was circulating. Ivy sought out the details for the program and brought the idea forward to her superiors. According to Ivy, her purpose to attend the workshop was different than the other applicants. “Most people,” she says, “were there to learn how to integrate KT in their work.” She was approaching the workshop from a different perspective. She was, “learning how to teach applicants how to use KT to disseminate knowledge and learnings from their funded projects.” The questions her workplace faced were: “How do we change our applicants’ thinking about KT? How do we get new information into the hands of the people who can use it? and What tools do we need to develop and share to make it work?”

They hired an outside consultant for strategy and created “knowledge communities” as forums for discussion, sharing of learnings (what worked and did not work), best practices, and building capacity for project teams in knowledge mobilization and dissemination. Ivy argues that the greatest difficulty in implementation was, “getting people to change their thinking.” The organization went on to publish their experience in integrating KT into their practice titled, “Implementing Knowledge Translation Strategies in Funded Research in Canada and Australia: A Case Study” (2016) with the Technology Innovation Management Review Journal. Ivy was a contributing writer. For Ivy, “The SPARK program provided me with the tools and understanding of the principles of knowledge translation and how to adapt and apply these to my own work. If you are looking to learn about the practical application for your work in real world settings, the workshop is a great place to start.”

Where Is Ivy Today?

Still with Movember, Ivy is currently the Director, Social Innovation, Mental Health & Suicide Prevention Program covering three markets (Canada, Australia and the UK). Movember has expanded to funding mental health programs in 5 markets; Canada, Australia, the United States, New Zealand and the UK. Ireland will follow shortly.  Each market encompasses many different portfolios and focal areas. Since 2006, over 100-million-dollars has been invested in more than 135 mental health projects globally. Movember has a current focus on storytelling as a method of sharing outcomes of projects. Check out the Movember website listed below for links to storytelling videos, more information about the issues they are fighting, and how you can personally help to contribute to such a great cause.

[Inaugural Movember Social Innovators Challenge (SIC) Knowledge Community meeting, Toronto, August 2017]

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The content in our blogs is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health provider with any questions you may have regarding your mental health. If you are in distress, please contact your nearest distress centre. If it is an emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to your local emergency department.