Port Coquitlam firefighter Will Brodie admits topics like mental health and cancer rarely come up in conversation at his fire hall.
But every November that changes.
That’s when about 200 firefighters from around Metro Vancouver put their upper lips on the line for their annual Movember challenge, a worldwide movement that uses the cultivation and grooming of facial hair to spark conversations about mental and physical health issues specific to men, as well as raise money to help find cures for afflictions like prostate cancer and bolster supports for well being.
The Port Coquitlam Firefighters Charitable Society kicked off its 11th challenge on Tuesday (Nov. 1) with Brodie, its president, going under the skilled blade of Darcy Cameron, chief chopper at the Gentlemen's House of Grooming on Mary Hill Road.
With several colleagues along for support, Brodie said it’s an important time for firefighters to confront some of the health issues they face in the day-to-day execution of their jobs.
"We're exposed to a lot of carcinogens," he said, adding mental and emotional traumas are also a growing concern in his profession.
In fact, firefighters are three times more likely to die from prostate and testicular cancers than men in other professions, said Brodie.
Since jumping aboard the Movember initiative that had its origins in Australia, the society has raised more than $150,000 with firefighters from across the Lower Mainland participating in various fundraising events.
There's a Beer and Burger night on Nov. 4 at the Bennett Craft and Kitchen and a massive hockey tournament Nov. 25 that will bring together 16 teams at Planet Ice in Coquitlam.
Brodie said the events don’t just help the cause: the camaraderie and competitive spirit cultivated among the firefighters as they compare the progress of their moustaches helps lower the barriers that might otherwise stifle heartfelt conversations.