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Mental health may be one of the most important Men’s Health issues

25 June 2024 Profmed

As winter gets colder, so too do the hearts of men. In honour of Men’s Health Awareness Month, Clinical Executive at Profmed, Justine Lacy, believes the mental health needs of men need to be satisfied.

“Our men are suffering,” laments Lacy. “In a world where the stressors are compounding by the month, nothing will change unless we make a gigantic leap forward in breaking down the stigma and getting men the mental health treatment they so desperately need.”

There is a tragic rise in suicide rates with men being disproportionately affected. According to a report from the South African Society of Psychiatrists, South Africa ranks 10th for suicide rates in the world. Of the 13,774 suicides reported in South Africa, a massive 10,861 were men. For Lacy, this begs one question: Why?

"The statistics are a tragic reminder of the urgent need for targeted mental health support for men. It is critical that we break down the barriers that prevent men from seeking help.”

Socio-economic issues such as unemployment and inequality exacerbate the situation, contributing to the high rates of violent crime and gender-based violence (GBV). These issues are especially prevalent in poorer communities, where men mostly hold financial power over – another stressor on the road to mental stability.

"For many men, the pressure to provide for their families during tough financial times can be overwhelming," Lacy explains. "Coupled with the dangerous notion that men should not speak out about their problems for fear of being seen as weak, this can lead to severe mental health issues. The signs of these struggles often differ from those in women, manifesting as irritability, sudden anger, increased loss of control, risk-taking, and aggression."

The recreational use of drugs and alcohol as a form of stress relief is another major concern. Lacy says substance abuse is closely linked to violence in South Africa, and for those who do not succumb to this path, suicide can become a perceived solution to their mental anguish.

“We all seem to automatically expect men to be unshakable pillars of strength, but this assumption only leads to them bottling up their emotions, leaving them at risk of a mental breakdown.

The existing stigma surrounding men’s mental health has kept these issues in the shadows for far too long, which is why Lacy firmly believes there is a growing need to change this narrative.

"Men's mental health issues have historically been swept under the carpet or dismissed as signs of weakness," says Lacy. "There is a pressing need for a societal shift. We need to encourage men to speak out and seek help without fear of judgment."

According to Lacy, anyone with a medical scheme, even a hospital plan, may be able to access mental health treatment through their Prescribed Minium Benefits (PMBs). PMBs serve to uphold a baseline of acceptable coverage for all members of a medical scheme. This coverage cannot be restricted in terms of funding and generally does not necessitate any co-payments from members.

“If you need mental health support, it’s worth tapping into your benefits because they exist to help close the mental health gap among South African men.”

For Lacy, Men’s Health Awareness Month is another critical reminder that men’s health is a subject that requires ongoing engagement – particularly in mental health issues. “By fostering open discussions and providing robust support systems, South Africa can work towards a future where men feel empowered to seek help and overcome mental health challenges.”

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