Men admitting to mental health issues is not a sign of weakness, experts say

Experts are against the misconceptions pertaining to men facing mental health challenges. Picture: Sumaya Hisham Reuters

Experts are against the misconceptions pertaining to men facing mental health challenges. Picture: Sumaya Hisham Reuters

Published Dec 1, 2023


Durban — Health experts are against sweeping men’s mental health issues under the rug, which has reportedly resulted in the rising number of suicide cases in the country.

Dr Tshepo Sedibe, principal occupational health officer at De Beers Group’s managed operations, said bottling up feelings and emotions could cause major depression levels in men.

“The combination of the Covid-19 pandemic, socio-economic issues such as unemployment and inequality, and tough financial times, combined with the dangerous idea that men should tough things out, can all result in a large body of men feeling increasingly desperate. We need a new approach to men’s mental health,” said Sedibe.

He said while people have misconceptions about men suffering from mental health issues, SA suicide figures since 2019 are increasing.

According to the World Health Organization, in 2019 South Africa witnessed 13 774 recorded suicide deaths, with 10 861 involving males.

South Africa has the third-highest suicide rate out of all African countries, at 23.5 per 100 000 population, as revealed by the Global Health Estimates report.

Dr Charles Mbekeni, the SA health lead at Anglo American, said it was important for men to take time to introspect and get to know themselves first and to take care of themselves.

“Not tackling mental health issues can also lead to men being more aggressive, and showing signs of violent behaviour and substance abuse, which then perpetuates the cycle as the next generation is exposed to this behaviour,” said Mbekeni.

He said common warning signs of emotional distress include:

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little.
  • Pulling away from people and things you used to enjoy.
  • Having low or no energy.
  • Having unexplained aches and pains, such as constant stomach aches or headaches.
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless.
  • Excessive smoking, drinking or using drugs, including prescription medications.
  • Worrying a lot; feeling guilty with no real explanation.
  • Thinking of hurting or killing yourself or someone else.
  • Having difficulty feeling settled in your home or work life.

24-hour toll-free emergency helplines

  • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0800 567 567.
  • Department of Social Development Substance Abuse Helpline: 0800 12 13 14/SMS 32312.
  • National Counselling Line: 0861 322 322

WhatsApp your views on this story to 071 485 7995.

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