Counseling and Career Services will collaborate with Redefining Athletic Standards for Movember. Credit: Courtesy of Terry Johnson

“No-shave November” is about more than growing a beard at Ohio State’s Counseling and Consultation Services. 

CCS partnered with student organization Redefining Athletic Standards for the second year in a row for CCS’ annual Movember campaign, which encourages the growth of facial hair to fight the stigma associated with men’s mental health issues. 

RAS was founded in August 2018 by Austin Mack, former organization president and senior wide receiver for Ohio State football, and Terry Johnson, current president and sprinter for Ohio State track and field. Johnson said RAS was created to support and advocate for black male student-athletes and give them a voice on campus.

“We kind of think of it as a brotherhood for black male athletes on campus to come together and talk about social issues, have fun and get to know each other,” Johnson said. 

Laura Lewis, assistant director of Ohio State’s Suicide Prevention Program, which is another partner of the Movember campaign, said men fall into the high-risk population for suicide.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States suicide rate among men in deaths-per-100,000 has increased 26 percent from 17.8 in 1999 to 22.4 in 2017. 

“Men tend to sometimes struggle more when it comes to seeking help when it’s related to mental health issues and mental health topics, and so Movember is about bringing that out and empowering men to empower each other and themselves to reach out for support when they need it,” Lewis said.

Johnson added that the organization’s main goals include community involvement, professional development and increasing the graduation rate for black males.

RAS got involved with Movember when CCS reached out to the organization asking if it would like to be a part of the campaign since it had a strong presence in its first year on campus, Johnson said. Because of RAS’ growing presence, CCS thought it would be able to put on a good event for Movember.

“We also thought that it was a good opportunity for us to use our platform that we have to implement positivity in the community,” Johnson said. 

The organization wanted to educate itself, Ohio State and the surrounding community on mental health, Johnson said, and during the first year of the campaign, he and his fellow RAS members learned a great deal, including that there are many black males in the mental health field. 

“There are a lot of black psychiatrists and a lot of mental health professionals that look like us, and most African American men would rather go to someone that looks like them to talk about mental health if they were to go,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he also learned how powerful conversations about men’s mental health can be.

Johnson said that during this year’s Movember campaign, RAS will bring in some new activities, including a day of positivity that encourages people to write positive notes; a black-shirt day that invites anyone wearing a black shirt for CCS or growing a mustache to start a conversation about mental health; and a conversational videotaping that RAS plans to release later in the month.

Johnson said that overall, he thinks the campaign has benefited students because it has given them a platform to learn and talk about mental health and the resources available for mental health issues. 

Movember will continue to host events throughout the month, with focuses on breaking habits and masculinity, according to the website.