Don’t criticise men when they open up

Lonely man

A lonely man. Depression is one of the most common mental health problems among Kenyan men but it goes undiagnosed as many do not notice the symptoms.

Photo credit: Fotosearch

Alcohol and substance abuse, as well as suicide, have become the daily story among men as a result of depression. Mental health has become a serial killer among young and older men alike. But early detection can be pivotal in preventing the increasing cases of suicide and drug abuse among men, or even unexpected acts like killing their family members.

Depression is one of the most common mental health problems among Kenyan men but it goes undiagnosed as many do not notice the symptoms. More than 60 per cent of Kenyan men suffering from mental health do not know it—resulting in the increase in suicide cases by 58 per cent. More men than women are likely to die from suicide.

Even though mental illness affects both men and women, it is overlooked in males. Mental illness in men goes untreated because they are less likely to seek medical attention. It may also occur due to family members failing to notice. Doctors also fail to notice it due to men being reluctant in expressing themselves.

In addition, most men are not likely to discuss mental and emotional problems, having been socialised into believing that it is unmanly to reveal one’s frailty. They fear losing respect from their parents and partners.

Men have been told that a man should not cry out but ‘man up’. This has led to men hiding their mental ill-health status, trying to cope with it silently and not giving importance to treatment.

Besides, the society is not used to men opening up, which is received with mockery and hostility and being seen as weak. The result is increased cases of death among adults and young men due to depression and suicide.

Statistics show that young men have a high health risk profile compared to their female counterparts, hence the need for intervention and prevention. This data is troubling as it reinforces the notion that males are less likely to seek help. This is despite Kenya having multiple mental health facilities and services.

There is a big difference between males who are suffering from mental health and those seeking treatment, and this has made mental illness become a silent ‘serial killer’ among men.

If a man around you exhibits suicidal tendencies or attempts suicide, do not put him down or ask him to “deal with the emotions like a man”. His actions are a cry for help; do not ignore him at any cost. Also, men should stop the mentality that they have the power and ability to deal with depression silently. Let them open up and seek medical attention and advice.

The society should also start adopting strategies that look at men and masculinity as allies to men’s mental health. To effectively tackle male depression, men should be encouraged to talk freely about their feelings.

The criticism against men who open up about what they are going through should stop now.

Samuel Kimani, Nyahururu

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