It’s time for black men to cry

I’m not sure how you are doing, but my year went from excited to sad, confused, disappointed, heartbroken and angry.

Every time I come across newspapers (national ones) and read them, my mood grows so low that I feel I am self-harming.

Why are black men committing suicides of late? According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group there are an estimated 23 suicides per day in South Africa and for every one of them there are at least 20 attempted suicides.

Men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women. This made me numb and made me question: why, what is this pressure that men are under? How can men overcome this pain they’re going through? Does talking help and are we dying because of pride or fear of criticism?

Recently you might have noticed, there’s been many deaths of known people (celebrities). Not that they are not supposed to die but the way they have died … In January and February two celebs, actor Ntate Patrick Shai and singer Riky Rick both died with their deaths linked to mental health challenges.

Ntate Shai took his own life and his body was discovered by his wife in the garage of their Dobsonville home while the cause of Riky Rick’s death was not shared but suicide was suspected.

There’s too much hidden pain and anxiety in men, especially the so-called successful men, however, not excluding the ordinary us. I feel self-harm is rife among men.

I’m trying to understand exactly how these good, wealthy and successful people could die of the above. Was it abuse from friends, families … fans, detractors and they just could not cope with life?

As a black man and knowing our culture, I know we’ve never taken mental health so seriously as we do now. The pressure of being a black man is huge.

But there is bullying that you will never notice against men. Sometimes men are not allowed to express themselves in any way. One has to choose what to say and how to say that. Any mistake or saying anything that many are against, could lead to bullying, including cyber bullying.

I guess this is what Ntate Shai experienced. As a result he took his life. Being bullied anywhere is as bad as bullying is at school. It is as bad as bullying at the workplace. Bullying can leave one miserable and that could lead to mental health issues. Imagine your boss telling you how useless you are or how stupid you are. The same person you will meet from Monday to Friday. That would reduce you to nothing. One would end up doubting himself or herself. Self-confidence would die.

There are some men who go to the matshonisas every first day of the week because they have spent all their hard-earned cash at taverns or tshisanyamas. That is not because they necessary love spending, but something is pressuring them.

They think the best way is to go out and party, drink themselves to death until Monday. Unfortunately on the same Monday, the problems will still be waiting.

I have had people saying men don’t talk. Men should learn to open up, and so on. I have seen men talking and after that no one listens. Society has never been good to their cries. As people we don’t often listen to those who shout out. Riky Rick shouted on his Twitter account and we opted not to listen. We literally closed our ears. That last tweet said it all: “I’ll return a stronger man. This land is still my home”.

We shut him out and never intervened and now we are too late.

I believe (without scientific analysis needed) ) that the violence displayed by men is not about masculinity as some would believe. It is a well-known fact that the vast majority of violence is committed by men. But have we analysed why? The same men could be the victims of abuse at work, in the community and of course at home. These things and others may lead to men to kill or kill themselves. However, let me say upfront that that does not justify killings and murders.

We all agree that bullying should not be allowed anywhere, including the institutions that we work for. Bullying is rife and we need to tackle it head-on. However, the question is, tackled head-on by whom when people you turn to retreat into their shells? Men need help at home, in the workplace and in society.

Those who are managing the workplace need to get to the bottom of why, for example, a certain worker is forever drunk. In a case like this, management is vital for both parties, the worker and the company. Workplaces can also become manufacturers of mental health challenges.

The death of giants such as Ntate Patrick Shai and Riky Rick is a reminder that South African men are living with an epidemic of mental health difficulties.

Black men need to know that mental health is real. Black families need to support men in their struggles with mental health. It’s time for black men to cry.