•Men are less able to recognise the symptoms of mental health problems in themselves
•Men are expected to be strong, dominant and in control, at the same time be breadwinners for the families. So, what happens if he cannot provide these things, does it make him less of a man? "
Joseph Wangondu, a 32- year old teacher has battled the bouts of mental health including depression and suicide attempts.
He told the Star on Friday, that Kenyan men are more prone to bouts of anxiety and depression that lead to suicide due to stereotypes about “what it means to be a man”.
Data from the World Bank puts suicide mortality rates in Kenya at 6.1 people in every 100,000, with men being in the highest risk category of suicide, with 9.1 men in every 100,000 affected.
“I believe African men have grown up under certain ways, which define the dos and don’ts of a man"
"This is why a man will guard up his feelings because he fears the repercussions in a society that taught men not to cry or show their weak emotions,” Wangondu said.
He said it is saddening because men take their lives because of this wrapped understanding.
“Men are expected to be strong, dominant and in control, at the same time be breadwinners for the families. What happens if he cannot provide these things, does it make him less of a man?" he posed.
November 19, International Men’s Day, focuses on men’s health, improving gender relations, highlighting male role models and promoting positive expressions of masculinity.
Research suggests that men are more likely to use potentially harmful coping mechanisms like drug abuse, drinking alcohol, smoking and some may become very aggressive when battling mental challenges.
They are also less able to recognise the symptoms of mental health problems in themselves and chances of them reaching out for support narrow down to almost 20 per cent.
Clinical Psychologist Charles Mwendwa says that concerned friends and relatives need to reach out to men and let them know that they are willing to listen without judgment.
“Someone experiencing mental health problems may find it hard to reach out, so try keeping in touch with them. A simple text or phone call can make a huge difference,” he told the Star.
He advised partners against putting pressure on men as some comments may drive them to committing suicide.
“Just like the way you consider your well-being, try and consider his welfare too. I know looking after someone is hard but that is the time he needs reassurance, try and engage him and help if there is a way you can,” he said.
Most of the time, men feel embarrassed about talking about what is happening as they themselves don’t know what is going on.
Mwendwa encouraged accompanying them for counselling or seeking help at a psychologist or clinical facility can be the number one way of helping them.
Today is an opportunity to recognise men who do not fall into traditional manifestations of masculinity that incudes gender.
Let’s champion men to take necessary steps in maintaining their mental health as well.