Have you noticed that there are some gorgeous new faces on our website? Last weekend Katie met some amazing Oxford University students for a photoshoot with a difference! Led by Ollie, the University hockey club have committed to cold water swimming every day to raise money for men’s mental health with Movember. We love this cause and wanted to get involved and spread their message - so what better way to do so than a photoshoot before they swim!
Katie caught up with Ollie after the shoot to dig a little deeper into the story behind these swims…
Tell us a bit about your role with Movember. Why did you get involved at Oxford?
My name is Ollie and I am one of the Movember Ambassadors for Oxford University! I am incredibly proud to be coordinating a fundraising campaign which last year raised over £37,000 at the university for a fantastic cause.
Movember is a global charity advocating for and improving men’s health, from testicular and prostate cancer to mental health and suicide prevention. The tragic fact which inspires this work is that too many men are dying too young. In the United Kingdom, one man dies by suicide every minute, and research shows that men are four times more likely than women to die in this entirely preventable way.
Without wanting to sound cheesy, we are hardwired to need people to catch us when we fall. When faced with difficult or unexpected challenges in our lives, we can’t get through it on our own, we need the support of those around us. I lost my twin sister recently, and it really blew my world apart. I miss and think about her every day, and I don’t think that I could have got through the six or so months since she passed without such supportive friends beside me. Movember teaches us the importance of really looking after our mates, of getting inside their heads and empathising with what they are going through. I want to spread that message far and wide, which is what motivated me to get more involved with the charity this year!
Why is Movember such a relevant charity for students at universities like Oxford?
We hear so much noise – not least from university administrators and the government – about a ‘mental health crisis’ amongst students. Lots of this noise focusses on certain ‘characteristics’ of the younger generation, bemoaning our social media use, our shortened attention spans, and even our vaping addictions. Yet Oxford, along with many other UK universities, can be an extremely intense place for young people, regardless of the amount of time students spend scrolling through Instagram Reels every day!
I think explanations like the above are lazy and, even worse, do not provide us with a solution. Movember, on the other hand, does. By working with individual communities here at Oxford, such as sports clubs and colleges, we encourage students to check in on their mates, and ultimately to build a more supportive environment within the university.
Of course, institutional mental health support is still hugely important in this context and more broadly. The NHS and publicly funded counselling services still have a huge role to play, and it is a serious issue that their resources are being stretched so much. Ultimately, Movember is more informal, and nobody involved is pretending to be a trained therapist! However, the money we raise funds formal mechanisms of mental health support, and the publicity we generate each November starts conversations between friends that otherwise would not have happened.
What are you doing for Movember this year? How can I support your challenge and the Movember movement more broadly?
Having participated in Movember for four years now, each time inflicting a weird ginger moustache on the world, I decided that 2023 called for a larger undertaking. When Seb, a friend of mine from the hockey club, mentioned that he wanted to do a daily cold-water swim I knew that this would be a perfect challenge. So, everyday this month, we’ve been hauling our way out through the freezing water from the pontoon to a buoy at Hinksey Lake. Believe me when I say that buoy feels further away with each day that passes!
Anyway, we didn’t really know how much traction our daily doggy-paddles to the buoy would generate, so it has been great to see the donations flood into the hockey club ‘Mo Space’ as the month has progressed. Also, 27 different members of the club have joined me, Seb, Matt, and Joe on our daily swims, which is a testament to everybody’s enthusiasm for the cause!
Our target as a club this year is £3,000, and we are currently sitting pretty on £2,097 which is really awesome to see! If you would like to contribute to our cause, you can donate here!
Where does the money raised go?
This is such an important question. People that I’ve spoken to often misinterpret Movember and assume that it’s just a month where men ritualistically grow moustaches for a bit of a laugh. Weirdly, it may be that Movember struggles to explain its specific mission as a result of its ubiquity. The Movember fuzz that appears on our collective upper lips at this time of year should be a gateway to discussion about men’s health rather than an end in itself. It is important that the silliness of the principal fundraising technique doesn’t become abstracted from the reasoning behind the whole enterprise.
The money raised funds crucial projects which together help to change the face of men’s health. We have funded over 1,250 men’s health projects across 23 countries since 2006 and have contributed to the development of 54 inventions, 70 therapies, and 107 diagnostic tests for prostate cancer. These are groundbreaking innovations, and I recently attended the party which Movember threw for its 20th anniversary, where one of the speakers claimed that their work has brought prostate and testicular cancer research forward by decades. That’s something to be very proud of!
Why were you interested in collaborating with Y.O.U Underwear?
I was very keen to embed our cause more deeply in the local community for the 2023 campaign. With this in mind, I was searching for a community-focused small business to provide a suitable platform for our message. I can safely say that YOU Underwear are a perfect fit, and I’m not just talking about their gorgeous range of trunks!
Y.O.U Underwear’s commitments to sustainability and giving back are well known, and their ethical marketing practices struck a particularly resonant chord from a Movember perspective. The fashion industry’s treatment of models, and by extension its treatment of consumers, has contributed much to the mental health crisis in this country. Indeed, Y.O.U cites recent parliamentary research which shows that 61% of adults feel negative or very negative about their body image. Our two organisations are united behind the aim of lowering that percentage to zero, and we hope that our light-hearted modelling session down at Hinksey Lake last week can be a beacon for change.
As we hope you can see, this shoot was great fun and hopefully will bring attention and support to an amazing initiative by these students - huge thank you again for modelling for us!