The mo' behind bars: depression, mental illness and prisoner moustaches at the SROWA.

Lise Summers Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 09:18

The month of Movember, established in Melbourne in 2003, encourages us to look at issues relating to men’s health – in particular testicular and prostate cancer and mental health.  While others are growing mo’s,  we thought we would look to our collections to see what issues relating to men’s health we could identify along with some great moustaches of the day.

Mental illness is a serious issue for men, with more than 85% of all suicides being male.

The mo' behind bars

William Turner, sentenced in 1902 for stealing and burglary, served only three months of his five year sentence before being sent to the Lunatic Asylum. William Atkinson, on the right, fared much better, with a seven day sentence for 'stealing from the person'.

Our chosen collection is the series of prisoner photographs from the Fremantle Prison (WAS 861). Looking more closely, we delved into the prison registers (WAS 672) to find out more about the people, and the mo’s, we were highlighting.  Of the thirty or so men we have identified, the majority are in for stealing, with a significant number also accused of vagrancy, drunkenness and violent behaviour.  The Movember site ( tells us that some of the signs and symptoms of depression in men can include aggression and drunkenness and violence.  It is not inconceivable that some of the men we have found were in some way affected by depression or mental illness, and that their stint behind bars was a direct result of the behaviours they adopted.

You can see our Mo’s behind bars on Facebook, or via our video on youtube or in the Cultural Centre.