By: Lindelani Mnisi for ACTIVE! Change of Drivers
Did you know that, in 2019, The World Health Organisation reported, 13 774 suicides in South Africa, and 10 861 of those were men? Globally, the suicide rates for men are higher than those for women on average, and this persistent prevalence of higher rates of suicide among men points towards a very blunt, and heart-dropping truth: We, as men, are usually ill-equiped to properly manage our mental health.
We’re not predisposed to be more depressed or anything like that, but rather, historically we’ve often been raised to be tough, and show no emotions as men. In our distant past, it was useful to have strong, aggressive, men who were ready for war, but the times of war have passed – for the most part – yet the warrior spirit hasn’t.
In our current urban era, typified by global communion and civil citizens, the aggressive identity of men has not only lost relevance, but has come to hinder our regular functioning in day-to-day life. So if we are going to attempt to address the issues plaguing men in particular, that would lead to exorbitantly higher rates of suicide, one of the things we can do is to learn a couple of tips for taking care of our mental health, not just for ourselves, but for those around us as well, who’s lives our actions impact.
Taking care of our mental health doesn’t necessarily have to be something expensive, like therapy, or constant medication, as there are small things we can incorporate into our everyday lives to help. These things include, but are not limited to:
As men, we may often view exercise, and sports, from a competitive perspective causing us to either over-exert ourselves so as to dominate in our field, or not participating altogether because we doubt we’re fit for it. This hyperbolized view of exercise in general has sadly obscured a fundamental datum about it, and that is that the body enjoys exercising.
Being former cave dwellers who used to hunt for food and live very active lifestyles, our bodies love to move, and when we exercise, our brains release a host of chemicals, including dopamine, the feel good hormone. You’ve rarely seen someone leaving the gym looking depressed right?
- Prioritize rest
Just as it’s important to exercise, it’s also important to rest, otherwise we risk burning ourselves out. Something that would surely be detrimental to our mental health is chronic exhaustion. If you’re tired all of the time, the world’s current problems, as well as your own, only seem that much worse because you don’t have the energy to address them.
So – as much as corporate elites may try to convince us otherwise – resting isn’t extravagant or a sign of being lazy, but rather fundamental to our functioning as a whole. So whatever project you may be tackling at the moment, whether it’s school, being a father, or just working on your career, make sure you schedule in a good nap every once in a while. We tend to get frantic, when dealing with our problems, and work to hysterical heights but you’d be surprised how much doing nothing can help sometimes.
- Eat healthy
There’s the old saying that goes, “you are what you eat”, which is to say, if you eat healthy, you’ll be healthy, and if you eat unhealthy, you’ll be unhealthy. So eating healthy benefits your mental health to the extent that being physically healthy benefits your mental health.
Think about how hard it is to focus when you have a headache, or compromised immune system, and how easy it would be to slip into depression if you were constantly ill. The reverse is also true, where depression (especially prolonged depression) can cause you physical ailments such as constricted blood vessels which raise your risk of cardiovascular disease, according to an article on Healthline. So to take care of your physical health is to take care of your mental health and vice-versa.
- Express yourself
Something we’re notoriously bad at, as men, is expressing how we feel and showing vulnerability. Again, this is mainly due to the values we were raised with (to be strong, and never cry), which often leads to us bottling up how we feel inside until one day it all comes out as one over-emotional, or frustrated, outburst that’s usually misdirected anyways.
Learning how to express ourselves is not only good for relieving emotional build up, but also helps us to become better communicators, and resolve situations with other people without things unnecessarily escalating to conflict or violence.
- Get into routines
We all have a routine somewhere in our lives. Whether it’s a routine path we take to work, a routine place we sit in class, or a meal we like to eat routinely, we all have a routine or two. Routines make things easier to manage, and if we do anything often enough, we usually end up turning it into a routine.
If you’re feeling depressed, or stressed, chances are you either don’t have enough routine in your life to give you structure and security or a current existing routine in your life has been disturbed (possibly indefinitely), which can leave you feeling disorientated. So it’s important that we intentionally adopt, and maintain, routines that are aligned with our goals, as they can help us feel as though we have some control of our lives, among other things.
Trying to maintain some false veneer of dominance, and strength, all the time has come at the detriment of our mental health, but that’s just how we were raised to be as men. Although, as a new era dawns, with a new set of values upheld by society, this is our chance; nay our imperative, to redefine what it means to be a man for our generation, and possibly many to come.
Bio of the author
An animator, writer, and philosopher. Lindelani Mnisi, a 2019 Activator from Mpumalanga, has a history of writing blog posts, creating visual art, and independently researching all manner of topics related to society and history.
For more blogs click here: https://ngoconnectsa.org/category/blog/