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To realise a violence-free society, we must co-exist with healthy men

by Central News Reporter
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To realise a violence-free society, we must co-exist with healthy men

Opinion By: Zamayirha Peter

The suicide rate in South Africa has increased drastically. According to the South Africa Society of Psychiatrists report, South Africa is ranked number 10 on the list of countries with the most suicides with 23.5 suicides per 100,000 people.

Men’s mental health issues have previously been swept under the carpet or dismissed as signs of weakness, however, there is a growing need for men, and society as a whole, to take a different approach. The 2019 World Health Report indicated that from the 13 774 suicides reported in South Africa, 10 861 were among men.  

Studies indicate linkages between men’s mental health and their perpetration of Gender-Based Violence. While there isn’t a different sort of ‘male depression’, some symptoms are more common in men than women. These include irritability, sudden anger, and increased loss of control, risk-taking, and aggression. The material conditions of everyday life in a third-world developing country, where a significant number of young people are unemployed and the country is faced with largely single-parent-led homes anxiety mental health, and depression tend to find expression and are met with unhealthy coping mechanisms.

According to the Mental Health Foundation (UK), significant stressors among men include unemployment, divorce, separation, unequal power relations, emotional abuse, physical/ and or sexual violence, poverty, and financial difficulties among others. Men are generally not empowered to deal with mental health issues and commonly resort to unhelpful coping strategies such as excessive alcohol and substance use, which further results in cases of Gender-BasedViolence.

Men who need mental health support are able to access a myriad of platforms. In South Africa, there has been an increase in men-centered organisations and other structures that seek to bridge the gap between factors that isolate men vis-a-vis their mental health problems and help-seeking behavior.

Human rights are fundamental when advocating for and claiming gender justice and fighting gender-based violence (GBV), discrimination, and exclusion. There must be the support of practices or processes that hold duty bearers (such as state actors, teachers, health workers, and police) accountable to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights and enable rights holders to denounce human rights violations.

Adding to the resource of aid, during International Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month and in the lead up to the 16 days of activism campaign – the Generation G South Africa coalition (Sonke Gender Justice, and ACTIVATE! Change Drivers and Action Aid South Africa ) hosted a Mental Health Indaba at the Nelson Mandela Foundation -themed, ‘Men at work’ – toward the redress of the stigma attached to mental health and the empowerment of men in their full diversity with mental health tools towards being effective allies toward the end of Gender-Based Violence.

The Imbizo provided a safe and practical environment for men in their full diversity to gather and participate in mental health interventions to capacitate them with knowledge and practical tools they can use to address mental health problems and become effective allies toward the end of Gender-Based Violence.

It is recorded that men are less likely to seek mental health interventions. For millions of South African men, the only available stress relief may be the recreational use of dangerous substances like drugs and alcohol rather than talking about their problems. Drugs and alcohol abuse are synonymous with violence in South Africa. The men who don’t succumb to drugs and alcohol, turn to suicide as an answer to their mental illnesses.

During the 16 days of activism campaign toward the Elimination of Violence against Women and Children, It is important that we look to elevate the call to put to the end gender-based violence and femicide against women, and children. There must be a period of focus on promoting positive masculinities and gender norms by addressing and challenging patriarchal and harmful definitions of masculinity and actively involving men in efforts to achieve gender equality. Healthy men are not born but raised and socialized in the communities they come from and while the problems for GBVF come from our societies, so do the solutions.

About the Author:

Zamayirha Peter is an Advocacy Communications Specialist with over eight (8) years of experience in multimedia journalism and communications. Her passion is using development communications to contribute to the advancement and empowerment of communities particularly the youth, across the continent and influence global conversations through using strategic communication tools.

References

https://www.sasop.co.za/mens-health

https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240026643

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/2022-04/MHF-tackling-inequalities-report.pdf

Zamayirha Peter

Zamayirha Peter

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