Spotlight on mental health

Mental health in men’s health awareness month. Picture: Archives

Mental health in men’s health awareness month. Picture: Archives

Published Jun 27, 2024


Durban — As Men’s Health Month draws to a close, the focus has been on their mental health.

According to the Department of Health, the purpose of Men’s Health Month was to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems.

The response has also been overwhelming with thousands of awareness activities across the globe.

Health-care providers, public policymakers, the media and individuals had an opportunity to encourage men and boys to seek regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury.

Profmed clinical executive Justine Lacy said the mental health needs of men should be satisfied.

“Our men are suffering. In a world where the stresses are compounding by the month, nothing will change unless we make a gigantic leap forward in breaking down the stigma and getting men the mental health treatment they so desperately need,” she said.

According to a report from the South African Society of Psychiatrists, South Africa ranks 10th for suicide rates in the world. Of the 13774 suicides reported in South Africa, 10861 were men.

“The statistics are a tragic reminder of the urgent need for targeted mental health support for men. It is critical that we break down the barriers that prevent men from seeking help,“ said Lacy.

Socio-economic issues such as unemployment and inequality exacerbate the situation, contributing to violent crime and gender-based violence.

Lacy said: “For many men, the pressure to provide for their families during tough financial times can be overwhelming. The signs of these struggles often differ from those in women, manifesting as irritability, sudden anger, increased loss of control, risk-taking, and aggression.”

The recreational use of drugs and alcohol as a form of stress relief is another major concern.

“We all seem to expect men to be unshakable pillars of strength, but this assumption only leads to them bottling up their emotions, leaving them at risk of a mental breakdown.”

She said society should encourage men to speak out and seek help without fear of judgment.

Lacy said that anyone with a medical scheme, even a hospital plan, may be able to access mental health treatment through their Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMBs). This coverage cannot be restricted in terms of funding and generally does not necessitate any co-payments from members.

“If you need mental health support, it’s worth tapping into your benefits because they exist to help close the mental health gap among South African men.”

Clinical psychologist Sanele Nkosi said he had been passionate about raising awareness about men’s mental health since early on in his training.

He said it was unfortunate that young boys were raised to believe they had to be invulnerable. As a result, they avoided asking for help and often believed they should solve all problems on their own, Nkosi said.

Nkosi believed that spaces like the one Dr Shahieda Jansen from the University of South Africa (Unisa) created, where men were allowed to share their emotions, were important. He aimed to have more of those spaces.

“My goal is to create psychotherapy groups for men where they can discover that they are not alone in their problems, a space to meet others who can relate to the challenges you face,” he said.

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