MEN’S health charity Movember is issuing a £1.86mil call out for innovative digital and tech ideas addressing the mental health challenges that stem from social isolation
It’s called the Social Connections Challenge. Through crowdsourcing, the challenge aims to find and develop ideas for new digital or technology initiatives that maintain or strengthen social connections and address isolation in groups of at-risk men.
As many as 75 ideas across the UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand will be shortlisted, with up to five UK projects selected for a co-development investment of between £52,500-£131,600.
A timely debut, the Social Connections Challenge comes amidst increased feelings of isolation and uncertainty many are facing as a result of the global COVID-19 crisis.
In May, Movember launched a global survey whose results indicated that nearly a quarter of men globally (23 per cent) reported their mental health had worsened in the first six weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, while almost a third of men (30 per cent) noted increased feelings of loneliness with the highest percentage (71%) among young men aged 18-29 years.
Movember Global Director of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Brendan Maher, said strong social connections were a key protective factor for men against anxiety, depression and potentially suicide.
“It’s concerning that in the midst of this pandemic, Movember research tells us that 33 per cent of men admitted they felt lonely more often.
“We’ve been isolated from our usual support networks and coping mechanisms which can have a huge impact on mental health and wellbeing,” he said. “There is a critical need to ease the anxiety and strain resulting from being physically apart.”
The challenge will ensure funding is directed to the following priority groups, with a focus on those who are likely to be at greater risk of social isolation due to geographical location, socio-economic status, gender and/or cultural background, including:
- Older men who live alone
- Men who have experienced recent relationship breakdown/family separation
- Men undergoing treatment for prostate/testicular cancer who are experiencing social isolation
- Bereaved men experiencing loss and managing grief while socially isolated
- Men living with a mental health challenge who are at risk of substance misuse due to social isolation or who are in recovery
- Young men affected by education interruption or unemployment due to the economic downturn
- Men from culturally diverse backgrounds who are unemployed and/or socially isolated
Maher said the original Social Innovator’s Challenge (launched back in 2015) received an overwhelming response – more than 426 submissions globally – with just 12 initiatives progressing through the first round of funding.
“In this COVID-19 year, the way we connect is evolving. We see Movember’s Social Connections Challenge as an opportunity to shake things up and leverage the amazing ways that people have been keeping men connected using technology.
“In addition to funding, being part of the Social Connections Challenge includes support and expertise from the Movember team in order to maximise potential and impact. We test, learn and find out exactly what works for men, so that the most promising programs can be scaled to reach more men, more quickly. Finding ideas that have been started in the community and are showing promise is a really exciting opportunity.”
Anthony York is the CEO of Boxing Futures, which delivers the Brothers Through Boxing (BTB) project. Earlier this year, BTB – a unique project which connects young socially-isolated men through regular boxing training and group discussion – was one of six projects globally chosen to go through to the third round of Movember’s original Social Innovators Challenge.
Funded by Movember, Brothers Through Boxing targets men aged between 16 and 25 who are not currently in employment, education or training. Some who take part in the six-month programme have suffered trauma, have special educational needs or experience mental health challenges.
The boxing-focused sessions build physical and mental fitness and are followed by group discussions which encourage men to open up – challenging traditional masculine stereotypes which can have a detrimental impact on mental health.
Anthony said: “It’s been an incredible journey partnering with Movember for the past five years. Their innovative funding model allows creative social ideas to be piloted and tested. Movember has backed BTB in a huge way, supporting us both financially and non-financially, creating a lasting, sustainable impact in the lives of young men.
“BTB is about friendship, connecting people and supporting each other through tough times which is really what we’re here for. These projects are vital to create a support network for socially isolated men.
“I would certainly urge anyone with an innovative idea, no matter how unusual it might seem, to apply for the Social Connections Challenge. This is an opportunity to turn those wild ideas into a reality which might just save lives.”
Submissions for the Social Innovators Challenge 2.0 open on August 17. Successful applicants will be notified by the end of Movember. For more information, or to apply visit movember.com
Crisis support can be found at Samaritans: (116 123 and www.samaritans.org)