Tim Hipgrave, Employee Health and Wellbeing Manager at Bupa, is one of dozens of men at Bupa ditching the razor this month to grow a ‘Mo’ to raise awareness of men’s health issues including prostate and testicular cancer, and mental health. Here he shares the personal struggles that motivated him to take up the Movember challenge.
“I decided to get involved with Movember this year to do what I can to get people thinking and talking about men’s health. I’m obviously concerned for women’s health as well, but I know that there are particular challenges for men when it comes to talking about how we’re doing. And even getting advice about the most straightforward of health issues, let alone symptoms of cancer or mental health issues.
My main personal connection is mental health. I first remember really suffering mentally when I was 17. A culmination of things led to me going through a phase where I turned from an outgoing lively and confident character to someone who really doubted himself, had very low self-worth, wondered what the point of life was and felt really sad, constantly. And most significantly, I didn’t know how to talk to anyone. Anyone at all.
This period forced me into becoming extremely well able to contain even the most distressing of feelings. Enough so that people around me would have had little or no sign that I was struggling. But the emotion came out in different ways, gradually becoming quieter, less and less engaged with friends, smoking, going out in the evenings to just walk and listen to music to escape, and find myself lost in toxic repetitive thinking, including thoughts of suicide. I often used to think I wasn’t a very good son or big brother as well.
I gradually learned that simply sharing some of my thoughts could really help. It took me quite a long time (years and years!) to learn that being open with people could lead to sharing very common feelings. This helped me to connect with people and to realise that the difficult emotions I’d always thought were exclusive to me were actually very common! I also found that learning to give myself a break was a very underrated skill. It’s very easy to strive to be perfect, but this makes it very easy to be extremely self-critical. I’ve also had coaching and low-level counselling at points over the course of several years, which have helped me to understand how I was dealing with challenges in my life.
I’ve always had ups and downs since and I’m glad that I’ve developed what, for me, is a deep perspective and (hopefully) ability to ‘walk in other people’s shoes’. But if anyone can be spared having to go through suffering which really is avoidable, then you won’t find a stronger advocate. This is a large part of what drives my purpose in life to support other people. And this month, it’s the reason for the Mo.
I’ve only recently joined Bupa and part of the reason for this was the commitment the organisation has to its employees’ wellbeing. Bupa has some easily accessible services and I would personally use these if I felt my mental health was slipping at any point.”
Visit Tim's Movember page