Men must be encouraged to deal with mental health breakdown

Medical doctors have cautioned that sweeping men’s mental health issues under the rug results in high suicide numbers and abusive behaviour.

The physicians said they discourage men from bottling up issues that affect their mental health, saying dealing with a mental meltdown is not a sign of weakness.

According to Dr Tshepo Sedibe, principal occupational health at De Beers managed operations, a combination of the Covid-19 pandemic, socioeconomic conditions such as unemployment and inequality, and tough financial times can result in men feeling desperate.

In 2019, the suicide figures in South Africa climbed to 13 774. Of those, 10 861 were men, according to the World Health Organisation.

“We know that life has not improved since then. We need a new approach to men’s mental health,” said Sedibe.

He said men need to develop the ability to identify and understand the physical and psychological signs that their bodies give them that all is not well, emphasising on seeking healing to break the cycle of trauma.

“Some men prefer to heal spiritually and others might seek and attend therapy. What’s important is that whatever form that healing takes, it shouldn’t continue the cycle of trauma with their own loved ones.”

Boys do cry

Dr Charles Mbekeni, SA health lead at Anglo American, concurs with Sedibe. “It’s time to dismantle old ways of thinking like ‘boys don’t cry’,” he said.

Mbekeni said not dealing with mental health issues can also lead to men being more aggressive by showing signs of violent behaviour and substance abuse.

“Not only are you more able to take care of your loved ones when you are feeling mentally and emotionally strong, but when you need support or someone to prop you up, they will be there for you,” Mbekeni said.

“There are many places one can turn to for help, and men should not be afraid to ask for help.

“Mental health should also not be seen as a separate issue, but as interlinked, because consuming healthy foods, getting enough exercise, and prioritising good quality sleep can help both mental and physical health.”

The doctors recommend that if a man is experiencing a mental meltdown, they should reach out to a trusted friend or a family member, family doctor, local clinic, or one of the toll-free helplines and talk to someone. 

24-hour toll-free emergency helplines

• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0800 567 567

• Department of Social Development Substance Abuse Helpline: 0800 12 13 14/SMS 32312

• National Counselling Line: 0861 322 322

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