Men and mental health: Why it matters that we talk about it | The New Times

It was a poignant reminder to normalize and care for men’s mental health, when singer and songwriter Stromae, on a television show, talked about his new song and was frank about his personal issues, feelings of loneliness, depression, and battling suicidal thoughts.

With all of the prevailing masculinity norms in Africa, it becomes a difficult environment to live as a man. Not to minimize the difficulties that women face, such as domestic violence and other forms of abuse, but we should take a moment and talk about males for a change. Perhaps in this way, the quantity of abuse perpetrated by males could be reduced, as most violence is the result of a related trauma, according to WHO.

 

Some traits of toxic masculinity that often goes unnoticed are;  

 

Beliefs that men must have mental and physical toughness.

 

Beliefs that aggression is a natural trait in men.

Beliefs of stoicism, or that men should not display emotions.

Forced heterosexism, or discrimination against people who aren’t heterosexual.

Beliefs that men should be self-sufficiency or else depend on only other males.

Beliefs that men are emotional insensitivity,

These are only a few examples of things that can lead to bullying or humiliation if one is male but not characterized by them. Some people also force and push themselves to conform to society’s macho expectations, denying their genuine identities. 

These could, in turn, lead to other forms of abuse or violence from men toward other men or towards women. It could also lead to depression and, if not addressed immediately, suicide.

One, if curious enough, can also ask why there are few, if any, studies or researches dedicated solely to men’s mental health. On a personal note, studies are typically undertaken for both men and women as a whole population of a specific place or just women and teenagers, although the World Bank statistics show that Rwanda’s suicide mortality rate per 100,000 male population was 8.2 percent. This indicates that there is a serious need for attention and care in this area.

According to Joseph Muwonge (et al) in his article “Suicidal Behavior and Clinical Correlates in Young Adults in Rwanda: a Population-Based, Cross-Sectional Study” published in the Journal of Global Health Reports, suicide kills about 12 people per 100,000 in Rwanda each year, with a 3:1 male-to-female ratio. 

This means that the number of men is three times that of women, which could indicate that men are more likely to commit suicide than women.

One may ask, if it is because they’re naturally mentally weak, the answer is no! Men and women suffer from the same mental disorders, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anxiety, and Depression. 

There is no such thing as a “male depression,” and the symptoms are all the same. Some indicators of depression include negative thoughts and sensations, excessive tiredness, alcohol cravings, and drug misuse. Helping someone with a mental condition can be done in a number of ways, or you can seek professional treatment. 

“The differential rates of depression, whereby women exhibit a higher rate of suicidal behavior but low suicide attempt mortality rate can be attributed to their high treatment rate for depression,” according to Ignacy Moscicki, a chemist who provided one explanation for the gender disparity in suicide rates. 

He discovered that women’s rates of diagnosed and treated depression are around twice as high as men’s. This demonstrates that, due to prevailing masculinity norms, men are less likely to seek professional therapy for depression or even seek support from their friends.

Stromae after opening up about his rather sensitive problems was commended and thanked for opening up on the matter by The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 

The latter tweeted, “Thank you @stromae for raising the difficult topic of #suicide on your latest album. So important to reach out for help if you are struggling and to support those who need help.”

As more men, particularly those in positions of authority or with the ability to influence their audience, continue to raise awareness regarding men’s mental health issues, we may see more men open out and seek help.

It’s also worth highlighting that this isn’t only a male issue; women’s campaigning on the subject is equally necessary for collective impact. Let it be an issue for everyone, a family, a country, and the entire world. 

While discussing the issue may not immediately cure the problem, it will undoubtedly be the first step toward recognising how our systems may be oppressive to some of us.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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