‘Men need to learn how to ask for help’

June is Men’s Health Awareness Month, with suicide prevention at the forefront

June is Men’s Health Awareness Month, with suicide prevention at the forefront

Published Jun 14, 2022


Durban - With the suicide rate for men in the country at 12.6 per 100 000 the South African Society of Psychiatrists (Sasop) urges men to speak up before it’s too late.

This Men’s Health Awareness Month calls are being made for stigma to be broken especially the notion that reaching out for help is “unmanly” and a sign of weakness. Reports show suicide is one of the leading causes of death globally and the prevalence amongst men is considerably higher than for women.

South Africa is ranked number 10 on the list of countries with the most suicides with 23.5 per 100000 population.

Dr Mvuyiso Talatala, president of Sasop, said men were five times more likely to die by suicide than women and often use more aggressive methods.

“The risk factors for suicide include unemployment, divorce, and adverse childhood experiences and that the symptoms of depression and anxiety are not in keeping with the perception men have of masculinity.

“The tools used for surveys for depression and for diagnosis of depression are not designed to pick up ‘male depression’ as men are likely to present with substance abuse, risk-taking behaviour, poor impulse control, anger, and irritability.

Yet even though not reported in surveys, many of those men dying by suicide are due to depression.

“Men don’t seek help due to the ‘macho male stereotype’ in society expecting men to ‘man up’ and adopt the ‘boys don’t cry’ mentality. It’s this attitude of men portrayed as brave and fearless that leads to men considering themselves in a negative light.

And for this very reason, they see it as putting themselves in a vulnerable position when seeking help,” said Dr Talatala.

“Abuse, gambling, drugs and alcohol, and reckless behaviour are some of the coping mechanisms embraced by men. If left untreated, anxiety and depression can trigger anger in men with violence, outbursts, bullying, abusiveness, explosive quick temper bursts, irritability, being edgy, touchy, cranky or impatient, as well as feelings of hopelessness and helplessness,” he said.

Symptoms of depression include:

• Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism

• Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities

• Persistent sad, or empty mood

• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, and self-reproach

• Insomnia or hypersomnia, early morning awakening, or oversleeping

• Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain

• Thoughts of death or suicide, and suicide attempts

The symptoms of anxiety include:

Physical -

• Pounding or racing heart

• Excessive sweating

• Muscle tension or aches

• Restlessness or agitation

• Dizziness or vertigo

• Shortness of breath or sensation of choking

• Panic attacks

Emotional -

• Constant worry about what could go wrong

• Perceiving situations and events as threatening when they are not

• Indecisiveness and fear of making the wrong decision

• Difficulty concentrating

• Feelings of dread

• Concentration problems

• Avoidance

• Nightmares or intrusive thoughts in which traumatic scenes are replayed in the mind

• Fear of losing control

To get help for yourself or those dear to you, contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group on 0800 121 314, or send an SMS to 32312 and a counsellor will call back.