IN THE past few years, South Africa has experienced an increasing interest in men's health, including well-being and mental health.
There is growing recognition of the prevalence and implications of depression among men. Although women have higher overall rates of depression, it is essential to recognise that men's mental health is frequently unacknowledged, undiagnosed, and untreated.
According to the South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP), suicide is one of the leading causes of death globally, and the prevalence amongst men is considerably higher than for women. According to SASOP 'South Africa is ranked number 10 on the list of countries with the most suicides, with 23,5 per 100 000 population. Of the 13 774 suicides reported in South Africa, 10 861 were men whilst 2 913 were women – translating to a rate of 37,6 per 100 000 for men and 9,8 per 100 000 for women.'
“Men are five times more likely to die by suicide than women and often use more aggressive methods. Although surveys reveal that women are diagnosed more than men with mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, men don’t speak about their feelings until it is too late."
While depression, anxiety, and work-related stress can be connected, it is critical to make the distinction that anxiety and depression are clinical conditions, while stress is not. Nevertheless, prolonged or excessive job stress is a risk factor for mental health problems and accounts for depression in working men. Some factors that contribute to job stress include high work demands, low job control, work pressure, unclear work roles, job security due to the pandemic, lack of control, participation in decision-making, long working hours, inadequate resources, and financial pressures from home.
These elements result in work stress and have an impact on businesses through increased absenteeism, reduced productivity and increased costs for companies.
Garron Gsell, CEO and Founder of the Men's Foundation of South Africa, said the reason that men do not address their mental health and well-being in the work environment and society at large is that they fear ostracisation and judgement.
“When corporate companies have organisational platforms that are available for men to seek the help they need, the services are often underutilised because men fear the lack of confidentiality and the fear that they might be presumed incapable of doing their jobs," he said.
Gsell emphasised there is a need to create environments that will be conducive to men's well-being.
“Because then men realise they are not the only ones struggling through these challenges," he said.
Being in a space where there are other people with similar experiences will result in men not isolating themselves and dealing with mental health issues in solitude. Gsell said it is pertinent that men's mental health is looked at through the lens of a male.
Men's Foundation manages awareness and education campaigns and drives fundraising for investments into survivorship and research programmes with support structures that will remove the stigma resulting in men not seeking the necessary help that they need.
“The programmes that we have got are designed to create that space for men through corporate wellness talks that enable men to realise that it is okay not to be okay, but also to open up the platforms to speak out and raise their issues," Gsell said.
Mariet Visser is the coach, trainer, and co-founder of We Do Change, which is a company that is an avid catalyst for change. It is working alongside organisations, teams and individuals to combat change fatigue by incrementally impacting positive change and improving work lives for the better. Visser encourages all business owners and organisations to enforce proactive mental health support by:
- Breaking the stigma surrounding mental health.
- Ensuring that people know that it is okay not to feel okay.
- Creating a safe working space: It is scary to open up, share your feelings, and talk about something personal to you as it makes you more vulnerable.
- Employees need to feel comfortable to talk about their mental health, feel supported and know how to ask for help, so ensure the working environment caters for this.
- Being a mental health advocate: Managers tend to model the behaviour they wish to see in their organisation when it comes to working hard and being honest and punctual, so why not about mental health too?
- By taking action first and addressing your mental health issues, you make it possible for others to take the first step too.
- Learning to recognise and acknowledge the needs of your team: Often, our real needs hide behind our complaints and frustrations.
- Listening more closely can be a huge help in identifying the needs and cries for help behind the words.
- Consider coaching support: Organisations like We Do Change can help your team navigate and manage their interpersonal relationships and improve their ways of working for the better.