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Uncommon sense - Revisiting mental health for men

2023-04-06  Karlos Naimwhaka

Uncommon sense - Revisiting mental health for men

In recent years, we have seen many people jumping onto the mental health wagon.  Whether it is due to personal experience or significant emotional events, many have become self-appointed ambassadors and activists to create awareness around the issue.  Regardless of the reasons they may have done so, it has greatly brought mental health matters to the forefront.

Even though many have joined the cause, bad mental health continues to be a silent pandemic. In Namibia, occasional media reports have also indicated that bad mental health is taking its toll more on the lives of men. 

This is not to say that it does not affect women, but various studies have shown that women are more open to seeking health services than men. 

Therefore, women’s positive attitude towards accessing health services makes them emotionally stronger to cope and eventually find ways to overcome the root causes of their mental and emotional troubles.

History shows that in Namibia, various efforts and interventions have been implemented to address men’s low access to health services in general. The hope is that the same has been or will be done with regard to access to mental health services and that the interventions are also more preventative, proactive, and not just reactive and remedial. 

As much as bad mental health presents a challenge, it also simultaneously creates an opportunity. It creates an opportunity for our society to put a foot on the breaks for reflection and introspection. It presents an opportunity for a diagnosis not only of the state of our core values as a people but also of the blind spots and a reality check on our possible ignorance. 

It is understandable that approaches are sometimes based on lessons learned from other countries if not continents. Nevertheless, as a country, we bear the responsibility to review and contextualize our approaches and remedial interventions considering cultural, social, and economic backgrounds. This is for the obvious reason that other nations’ contexts may be completely different.

As we move forward, there is also a need to look at more practical and realistic approaches that are tailored to the mental health issues and needs of our society. Instead of having a one-size fit all approach to all, we may need separate or different evidence-based interventions for men and women.  

This can even go as far as men taking the lead in raising awareness and movements geared towards not only awareness but strategic and structural educational measures.

In contextualizing the approaches to improved mental health for men, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, we can also revisit our traditional and cultural values. Because it is also possible that one of the root causes of high incidences of bad mental health amongst men could be the emasculation of men through the rapid adoption of mostly Western ways of living.  This may also then help us to find ways to rather have approaches that are complementary and revival to the existing but ever-waning stoic values.

Because for Africans, since time immemorial, the natural responsibility of men has been to provide and protect, to restore a society of good mental health may mean focusing on building a society of stoic and emotionally intelligent men.  

These are men who understand that life is difficult and must assume duties and responsibilities even in the face of adversity. This is because a society with emotionally and mentally strong men is a society of high-value men. 

It is a safe society where everyone can safely pursue their dreams and aspirations.  The opposite will be nothing but a self-destructive, morally bankrupt society susceptible to infestations with all evils, and a pandemic of cowardice.



*Uncommon Sense is published in the New Era with contributions from Karlos Naimhwaka.

2023-04-06  Karlos Naimwhaka

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