International Men’s Day: Men are more likely to die by suicide — here is how Nigerian men can take care of their mental health

Depression and suicide have been ranked as a leading cause of death among men. Still, most men refuse to seek the help they need mostly because of how they are raised. So, they suffer in silence (Getty images)
  • Every year, the International Men’s Day is celebrated on November 19th. It is an international event marked in over 70 countries. 
  • The theme for 2019 is “making a difference for men and boys” by addressing men’s issues that are often overlooked like high male suicide rates, sexual abuse and mental health.
  • Business Insider Sub Saharan Africa explores why Nigerian men struggle with mental health and what to do about it.

Research has shown that women suffer more from depression than men in many countries around the world. However, men are more likely to die by suicide compared to women. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are an estimated 793,000 suicide deaths worldwide with most being men.

WHO statistics also show that Nigeria has the fifteenth highest suicide rate in the world and seventh in Africa. 

Unlike other countries where male suicide rates tend to be significantly higher than female rates, the figures here are very similar. The male suicide rate is 17.5 per 100,000 people while the female rate is 17.1. 

Commenting on these figures, medical doctor Benjamin Aiwonodagbon said, “In developed countries, women are more educated and emancipated financially. Abuse is usually reported and culprits brought to book. This is quite different in Nigeria where education among the girl child is low and women are still perceived as second-class citizens. Other factors like early marriage, poverty, illiteracy, pressure to be married and abuses in marriage may all be contributory.”

Why men are more likely to die by suicide

Depression and suicide have been ranked as a leading cause of death among men. Still, most men refuse to seek the help they need.

“I think part of it may be this macho thing,” physician consultant Dr Raymond Hobbs told Healthline. “A lot of guys don’t want to admit they have this problem. They still see depression as a sign of weakness.”

For Zach Levin, the problem starts from how men are raised and how this can be such a burden on mental health.

“When you’re talking about toxic masculinity, it really comes down to the way males are brought up. The way we’re taught to be strong and quiet. If you look at the old John Wayne movies, that was the model we were supposed to aspire to. But it’s also a model that is dysfunctional in many ways,” he said.

He is supported by Dr David Plans who said, “Men are taught from an early age, either by cultural referencing around them or by direct parenting, to be tough, not to cry, and to ‘crack on.’

So, how men can avoid suicide?

A 2015 survey by Priory Group, a UK mental health provider, showed that 40% of men refuse to talk to anyone about their mental health. 

When they decide to open up, the survey of 1,000 men found that 66% would prefer to share their feelings with their partner above anyone else.

On this International Men’s Day, ladies, take the time to ask the men in your life how they are really doing. Let them know you are there for them and you are willing to listen when they want to talk. 

You can also look out for symptoms of depression like getting easily irritated, aggressive, road rage and drinking more than usual.

According to Psychologist Jill Harkavy-Friedman, vice-president of research for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,There tends to be more substance use and alcohol use among males, which may just reflect the distress they’re feeling — but we know it compounds the issue of suicide.”

Encourage them to adopt a healthy lifestyle instead of drinking as it helps to lower stress and alleviate depression.

Men, know that you do not have to deal with stress, depression and mental disorders by yourself. You can seek professional assistance as it is a sign of strength — not weakness.

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