Men admitting to mental health challenges is not a sign of weakness says, health practitioners unpacking other challenges

Dr Charles Mbekeni, Anglo-American's South African Health Lead. Picture: Supplied

Dr Charles Mbekeni, Anglo-American's South African Health Lead. Picture: Supplied

Published Dec 7, 2023


Men’s mental difficulties are sometimes thrown under the rug or overlooked for fear of being perceived as a sign of weakness, especially considering traditional notions that “boys or men don’t cry“.

This is according to Dr Charles Mbekeni, Anglo-American’s South African Health Lead, who also emphasises the importance of overcoming outdated beliefs influencing men's mental health.

He adds that males must take the time to reflect, getting to know themselves. as well as take care of themselves.

It has also been discovered that failing to address mental health concerns can lead to men being more aggressive, exhibiting indicators of violent behaviour, and abusing substances, perpetuating the cycle as the following generation is exposed to similar activity.

“Not only are you more able to take care of your loved ones when you are feeling mentally and emotionally strong, but when you need support or someone to prop you up, they will be there for you. But men can make a different choice,” says Mbekeni.

“They can choose not to be permanent victims of past experiences. To this end, they can embark on a journey of healing and personal development.”

Dr Tshepo Sedibe, Principal Occupational Health, De Beers Group Managed Operations. Picture: Supplied

On the other hand, Dr Tshepo Sedibe, Principal Occupational Health, De Beers Group Managed Operations points out issues that result in men feeling increasingly desperate calling for a different approach to men's mental health.

“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,” he says.

“Some men prefer to heal spiritually and others might seek and attend therapy. What’s important? is that whatever form that healing takes, it shouldn’t continue the cycle of trauma with their own loved ones.”

He further suggests that mental health should also not be seen as a separate issue, but as interlinked because the consumption of healthy foods, getting enough exercise, and prioritising good quality sleep can help both mental and physical health.

Sedibe emphasises that men need to develop the ability to identify and understand the physical and psychological signs that their bodies give them that all is not well.

Learning to look for those signs can help them to better understand their bodies and their mental health so they can take appropriate action, and do so early in the process.

He shares several warning signs of emotional distress including:

* 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; and

* Having difficulty feeling settled in your home or work life.

The Star