This article was solely written by Karyn Dwyer of Separated by Flying: Grounded and Connected
As you probably know, beards have been off limits for Qantas pilots and cabin crew for years. It’s an airline thing as those oxygen masks would never stand up to a full beard or a sexy set of mutton chops. They certainly don’t allow for a ‘tache that would impress your mates!
It’s all part of those grooming guidelines that we airline staff have all filed in the appropriate place. So Unless you’re flying longhaul and your name is Ted Hunter (I’m sure there’s some lucky lady who took him up on his offer) that’s a big ‘NO DEAL’ to that 70’s style moustache you’ve been dreaming about.
Moustaches such as handlebar, horseshoe (or ‘trucker’) and similar styles are unfortunately…unacceptable.
November however seems to be a different story with these standards being somewhat relaxed. The blokes I fly with get a real thrill out of sticking it to the company and give the mo growing all they’ve got. I’m pretty sure that most of them are just growing a Mo because they can…bend the rules with no fallout…bloody rebels!
Holiday time is the only time that our flying blokes can grow facial hair that they can truly revel in. But who gets to see it right? Certainly not the usual couple of hundred people every day that would admire it while being served a meal.
And how long can holiday facial hair really get anyway? A month is a lot of commitment to cultivate the perfect specimen. My sources tell me that growing a Mo takes a LOT of patience. While it’s fun and achieves a certain level of satisfaction, everyone hates it… including the owner eventually. I’m told the common gripes include:
- Nagging from the Mrs or significant other
- Endless amounts of uneaten food (gross)
- The “shave the f&cker off it’s annoying me” which gets worse as Movember rolls on
So aside from the obvious “let’s do something we can get away with”, why do it?
…BECAUSE MEN ARE DYING TOO YOUNG!!!
And that’s what Movember and the Movember Foundation is all about: raising awareness and funding for men’s health issues. These issues include but are not limited to:
- Testicular cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Mental health and suicide prevention
Now to be completely honest with you I didn’t really know what Movember was all about until recently. I experienced my own hideous Movember Mo thanks to my ex husband.
It is also a subject close to the Qantas family’s heart with Alan Joyce having his own personal prostate health problems in 2012.
That year Movember was kicked off in a big way at Qantas with a huge campaign featuring the Wallabies. I’ve never seen so many Mo’s at work in my life! Every man and his first officer seemed to be sporting one – even some of our aircraft were sporting Mo’s!
I’m a little disappointed that our campaign seems to have lost some steam since. Yes every November you still see the odd Movember Mo with the flight crew and I still get to play my favourite game of “Spot the Movember Mo” but it’s just not the same.
Men’s health issues are still as important as they were back then but maybe not as close to home as they were in 2012? We still need to provide support for men and awareness for the cause now and for our future generation of aviators. Every year in October we have a huge campaign for breast cancer. Why not continue with men’s health on the same scale the following month?
Now I know that prostate cancer is an important health issue for the Qantas family, given the fact that most of our employees are either from the 70’s or in their 70’s and are in the highest risk categories here.
But let’s throw a spotlight on mental health issues. This is where my interest sparks. This is a huge problem for men globally, especially for those that are working away.
I believe that mental health issues are the silent killer and have read much evidence to support this. Did you know that one man every minute of every day takes his own life? I was blown away when I read this information! That’s a lot of men taking their own life!
Fortunately for us in aviation, suicide is not something that we have to deal with often. There are a lot of other working away industries where suicide is a regular occurrence. We have FIFO guys on our planes constantly who from all reports are at the higher end of the risk scale.
How does mental health issues affect us as crew though? Well I’d say that most of us are pretty lucky when it comes to crew life. Some of the biggest D & M’s happen in the back galley in the middle of the night and it’s not all “galley gossip”. Let’s not forget the crew room upline and the endless parties!
Thanks to that back galley and those drunken nights most crew tend to have a pretty tight bond and have it covered when they need to talk. Some of the best advice I’ve ever received has been between LAX and BNE.
I did say most but some are not so lucky. It can be a very lonely job at times. Long periods alone and a lot of time awake at all hours of the night watching infomercials in hotel rooms.
Gossip travels very fast in this industry and I’m sure that at one time or another we’ve all heard some disturbing things. Self harm disturbing things. Which is sad.
In a job where you have to put your best face forward, be professional and competent at all times; this can be a challenge. Coupled with sleep deprivation, not so friendly passengers and some personal issues, the job can become overwhelming, stressful and definitely impact your mental health well-being.
Trust me, I know this firsthand from my 20 years of experience in this industry. So unless that party went really well or you found someone up for a chat in the galley, you can feel like you’re very much alone. Especially in the middle of the night in LA on a 38 hour slip!
As a company though, Qantas does pretty well in providing support. I didn’t know that our techies undergo aero-medical testing by a Doctor. Once a year if you’re under 40 and every 6 months over 40.
They also provide us formal and informal monitoring to identify potential issues as well as training for stress management, teamwork, communication and behavioural awareness.
We also now have effective fatigue management processes and access to EAP for all employees and their immediate families- which is awesome.
In our industry we seem to be lucky now but what about our future generation of male crew? Ensuring that they are supported and given strategies to be mentally healthy is music to my ears. But maybe that music needs to be turned up just a little?
There also seems to a lot more going on today with kids. With a young impressionable, almost teenaged male in my home it’s something that I’ll be supporting for the community wholeheartedly. Do we need to change the way we communicate these issues to the up and coming generation?
Let’s not stick to that old adage: “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Let’s try early prevention education and support not just for our fly guys but the community on a whole. You never know when you might need support, but you do know that you will at some stage.
And personally if growing a Mo can help remove the unwanted stigma that surrounds mental health issues; especially in my industry, I’d grow a Mo for sure!!
You can do your bit this November by either:
- Growing a Mo;
- Sponsoring blokes that are growing mo’s;
- Taking the Move Challenge; or
- Hosting an event.
It’s not too late!! visit Movember.com.au for more information.