The SA Federation for Mental Health, Leon de Beer says society needs to encourage men to recognise mental health and to seek professional help if they feel they are not coping.
His comments come as the world marks Movember, which happens in the month of November annually. The campaign embarks on fundraising for research in male specific diseases and educates the public about men’s health issues such as prostate and testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.
Movember encourages men to become Mo Bros, as supporters of the campaign are affectionately known, by signing up on the Movember website. The rules require each Mo Bro to start clean shaven on 1 Movember, and to grow and groom a moustache for the entire month.
The initiative aims to reduce the number of men dying prematurely by 25%. Men are dying on average six years earlier than women.
Across the world, one man dies by suicide every minute of every day, with males accounting for 60% of all suicides. In South Africa, 75% of suicides are men.
De Beer says men must be encouraged to seek support.
“I think it’s really important for us as a society to challenge the stigma around mental health, mental illness and to encourage men to recognise that we don’t all need to be tough guys. Its ok to express a wide range of emotions. Why is it ok for a man to be angry but it’s not ok for a man to be sad? So I think what we need to do as a society is really encourage men to recognise mental health and to encourage men to seek professional help if they do feel they are not coping or if they are showing symptoms or if they have behaviour that is a concern to those around them. So it’s really about breaking stigma and encouraging men to seek support.”
He says one of the really interesting and very concerning figures around men and suicide is that research shows that men commit or complete suicide much more that women.
“However depression, which is an important precursor to suicide, is much more diagnosed or prevalent in women. So there is a contradiction in women being diagnosed more but men committing more suicide and research is showing that depression in men is generally under diagnosed because of a number of reasons. Mainly women are more inclined to seek help than men.”
De beer says depression in men often manifests in different ways. “There are sort of traditional depressive symptoms like sad mood, aggression, irritation and substance abuse. These are things that people don’t generally associate with depression and therefore goes undiagnosed and therefore men are generally known to complete more suicides than women which is really a very concerning.”
Hip-Hop artist, HHP, real name Jabulani Tsambo who died last year battled with depression and his suicide attempts are well-documented.
During an interview, HHP admitted to attempting suicide three times in 2015 and that he had visited an online suicide website in an attempt to help him get information on how to end his life.
In the same year, the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town Professor Bongani Mayosi committed suicide after he struggled with depression.