“Men are stressed, depressed and end up taking their lives and those of the people they live with. There is a growing trend of men killing themselves and their families because of mental health or, when they cannot handle the pressure, they turn to risky behaviours.”
So said Malusi Xhego, of the Nyanga Men Empowernet (NME). He was speaking at the Mental Health Dialogue panel discussion which the non-profit organisation (NPO) presented last week, to look at men’s mental health and how to deal with the modern challenges men experience.
Also on the panel, on Thursday November 9, at the Nyanga Arts Centre, were the national health department and other NPOs. Mr Xhego said the event was an opportunity for men and local health practitioners to raise awareness, create access to resources and break down stigmas in the community.
Mr Xhego said his organisation has seen a need for dialogue that would provide access to different health professionals, health departments, social workers, nurses and other organisations that work with people. He said that he was happy that many organisations are recognising the need to offer better support to men.
“We have done programmes that deal with gender-based violence, crime and other social issues but this one, we have never done it. This is the first and we hope it is not the last,” he said.
Hope for Africa social worker Nothemba Nzimeni said men need to be empowered to deal with the situations they face. She advised them to know their bodies, and the symptoms of stress and ill health.
“Taking care of mental health is important. There are disorders like mood that they need to guard against. The common symptoms are irritability, hopelessness, sleeping disorders, tiredness, heavy drinking, abusive tendencies and many others. But there are also physical symptoms, like body aches, headaches, sexual dysfunctional and suicidal thoughts,” she explained.
Ms Nzimeni encouraged men to eat healthy and exercise. She outlined the importance of good nutrition for good physical and mental health.
“Diet plays a huge role. When they feel down, they should also play games, music, and exercise but most importantly, the clinics are there for them, and some NGOs,” she advised.
She concluded by saying it was a huge challenge for men who experience depression and anxiety and urged them not to be in denial when experiencing difficulties.
Buhle Msipa from Mthombe WeMpilo said his organisation has worked with men of Nyanga and the Klipfontein corridor. He said the notion that men don’t seek help is false.
“I read a research by the University of Cape Town and it said 400 men have suicidal thoughts every day. There is also research that we conducted back then with Salt River mortuary. We found 90 percent of admissions were men who killed each other. That is a worrying factor.”
He said violence and depression were symptoms of the impotence men felt when it came to finding work.
“That is because men are providers and they cannot provide. They get frustrated and become something they are not. Unemployed men feel useless. When men are not working they are disrespected in their homes and this leads to a high rate of domestic violence,” he said.
He added that men tried to live up to the roles and standards created by society and the social factors put pressure on them but they need instead to put pressure on themselves to seek help.
NME chairperson, Xolani Feni, appealed to the panel to make these discussions “fashionable” and to create safe spaces to deal with issues affecting men. He said his organisation is open for such discussions and talks.