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Apathy towards men’s mental health is worrying, says local CMR

Date: 30 November 2023 By: 

November was Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month, yet the Centre of Hope in Louis Trichardt, operated by the Christian Social Council (CMR), expressed concern over the lack of attention given to this subject.

Chantel Steyn, a social worker at the Louis Trichardt CMR Centre of Hope, attempted to engage with men in the community throughout November, the designated Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month. She found that men were reluctant to participate in the awareness campaign.

Chantel mentioned that the men who did listen and engage were unaware of this awareness month, known as Movember. They were surprised that emphasis was being placed on their mental health as well. “The purpose of men’s mental health month is to promote awareness to prevent mental health problems and encourage early detection and treatment among men,” said Chantel. According to the Newport Institute, common issues men may experience include depression, anxiety, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or bipolar disorder.

Chantel pointed out that men are often closed off about their emotional struggles, such as feelings of sadness, worthlessness, or hopelessness, and that these problems may manifest in various ways. These could include aggression, violence, engaging in high-risk activities, substance abuse, physical problems such as chronic headaches and stomach aches, changes in appetite and weight, fatigue, and obsessive thinking.

This reluctance to express emotional struggles can lead men to feel isolated and alone, putting them at a higher risk of attempting suicide. “The primary reason men avoid seeking help is due to society’s perception of mental health issues. Young men are taught to be emotionally strong and not vulnerable, leading them to dismiss or downplay their mental health symptoms,” said Chantel.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) estimates that 23 suicides and 460 attempted suicides occur daily. According to SADAG, the youngest victim of suicide in South Africa was a six-year-old child. Clearly, suicide does not discriminate based on age. South African men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women.

“CMR North aims to remove the stigma that men are weak and encourage young men to seek treatment by raising community awareness,” said Chantel.

As for advice to one’s 20-something self, Jamison Monroe, founder of the Newport Institute, says: “If I had to give one piece of wisdom to my 20-something self during what was a very dark time for me, it would be: You are not alone. There are so many people out there who are struggling just as you are, and there is hope. I am grateful to have made it through that time, and privileged to now be able to share my experience, strength, and compassion with other young people who are going through the same issues.”

The Newport Institute, with centres in America, recommends that young men facing mental health issues seek therapy to address potential childhood trauma that may cause depression and anxiety. They encourage building authentic relationships with peers and aim to guide young men in understanding themselves better and developing coping mechanisms for emotional pain. Their approach also focuses on honesty, openness, and fostering connections with oneself and loved ones to navigate life's challenges.

“Regular physical check-ups with doctors are important, and men struggling with emotional stress should seek assistance,” advised Chantel.

For those seeking help, doctors are available twice a month at the Men’s Clinic International in Polokwane (015 295 6890) or the local branch located at 106 President Street in Louis Trichardt. Alternatively, contact the CMR North Centre of Hope in Louis Trichardt at Tel 082 644 9296.



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