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National Men’s Health Month
National Men's Health Month

Reach out and prevent a suicide

Are South African men suffering from a mental health crisis? Yes, according to the experts, men’s wellness is an issue. On the list of countries with the highest suicide rates, South Africa ranks at number 10. The South African Depression Anxiety Group (SADAG) estimate there are at least 23 suicides a day and 20 more that are unsuccessful. Added to that are statistics showing that men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women.

Clearly, there is a mental health crisis and it’s time to speak out.

June is National Men’s Health Month. When we talk of “health” we refer to both physical and mental wellness– our psychological and mental state is a vital component of our overall wellbeing but is so often overlooked, especially men’s wellness. It is estimated that one in 10 men suffer from anxiety and depression and yet are unwilling or unable to speak about. All that pent up aggression, road rage, and substance abuse, are more often than not symptoms of depression.

Many men just don’t have the tools to cope with mental challenges and a major reason for this is what is known as “toxic masculinity”. This is stereotypical concept of masculinity that is harmful to both men and the people around them. Men are supposed to be brave and dominant . Statements such as: “Big boys don’t cry”, “man up”, “don’t be a girl” put unnecessary pressure on men, forcing them to suffer in silence. These beliefs are part of the stereotype that prevents men from reaching out for the help they need. Indeed, it is likely the reason that men suffer from such a high suicide rate.

What can you do to help yourself?

During this month dedicated to men’s health, make a start by looking after you mental health and wellbeing. Below are some tips to improve men’s wellness.

  • Do things that help you cope with your stress and make you feel better. Exercise, like running or boxing, might help as a healthy outlet.
  • Force yourself to spend time with friends and family – people who love and support you no matter what.
  • Share your thoughts with those closest to you or turn to a professional for help.

What can you do to help someone you love?

During National Men’s Health Month, take action! Look out for signs and symptoms in the men in your life, you could be the one that can help improve their wellness. A simple, supportive chat may be the difference between life and death. Many health organisations recommend using the acronym “WAIT” in your approach to someone who is clearly suffering:

W = Watch out

Look for sign of changed behaviour or signs of distress. These could include uncharacteristic quietness, bouts of aggression, withdrawing socially and/or talking about death or suicide.

A = Ask

Ask the question. “Are you thinking about suicide?” Many people are scared to ask this question, worrying that they may put the thought in the person’s head. Not true, say the professionals. Raising the topic of suicide might start a conversation that will save a life.

I = It will pass

Let your loved one know that thoughts of suicide, along with feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and depression, will pass, and that help is at hand.

T = Talk to others.

Let your loved one know there are many options. He can speak to you, to his doctor, or to organisations like SADAG or Lifeline.