CAPS ‘Movember’ programming struggles with attendance in 2nd year


Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

Searle Hall houses Counseling and Psychological Services. CAPS organized programs for Movember to promote men’s mental health and wellness but faced low attendance.

Keerti Gopal, Reporter

When only one student showed up for his “Movember” presentation on male body image and disordered eating, Steve Andrews said he was not discouraged.

“It’s OK that it’s not a sell-out crowd tonight,” Andrews, a psychologist at Northwestern Counseling and Psychological Services, said. “If you guys can take the message back to the people in your life who are important to you, that’s what important to me.”

The CAPS-organized presentation was one of four celebrating Movember, a month-long effort to raise awareness for men’s mental health and wellness. This year’s program included two more workshops than 2016 and a kick-off FIFA tournament organized with Interfraternity Council; but despite the expansion, organizers said attendance remained low.

Monika Gutkowska, assistant director for outreach and education at CAPS, said mostly regulars showed up for a Movember power yoga class and no one attended a mid-November presentation about hookup culture.

“It’s a pretty low turnout, unfortunately,” said Gutkowska, who has helped organize Movember the past two years. “I’m not sure if that’s because students are busy and they cannot go, or because they’re not aware it’s happening. … I think also these topics are hard to talk about.”

Shan Chen Pu, president of Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault, said he believes the low attendance stems from two main issues: apathy toward the topic of men’s mental health and a lack of awareness of events.

“Students at Northwestern often find it difficult to prioritize that which doesn’t contribute directly to their classwork or their job search,” the Weinberg senior said. “For some reason, self-care doesn’t seem like progress or something worth spending time on.”

Talking about mental health is particularly difficult for men, Gutkowska said. Fifty-eight percent of CAPS users identify as female, while 38 percent identify as male, she said.

Social Justice Education director Robert Brown, who led an event about masculinity, said he hopes Movember will encourage male-identifying students to feel more comfortable seeking help.

“I would want students to know that it can be life-changing to take care of yourself,” Brown said. “It’s definitely something I’ve personally struggled with in my own life.”

Pu said the Movember events were not well-publicized, and students did not help organize many of the events, which may explain the low attendance.

Though MARS wasn’t directly involved in planning Movember, Pu said the group — whose work includes discussion about masculinity — has been in contact with CAPS about possible future collaborations.

Gutkowska said she hopes Movember will continue annually at NU, adding she is looking to address attendance issues by expanding publicity efforts and increasing student involvement.

“We know that men have a lower rate of asking for help and seeking help, and there’s a lot of stigma,” Gutkowska said. “We want men to see that they don’t have to adhere to certain roles, that they can be vulnerable and have compassion — and that, maybe, it’s a sign of bravery.”

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