Friday, 19 July

Prioritising Men’s Mental Health

Feature Article
Prioritising Men’s Mental Health

There have been recent public conversations about mental health, which is a positive development. It has become a hot topic because it is an important part of human health that has been ignored for far too long. It could even have been described as a silent killer. Poor mental health could lead to heart problems and could even drive someone to the point of ending their own life. This issue is even worse for men. Men account for 75-80% of deaths by suicide globally; four times more than women.

Every year, many men are led to their graves because they fail to pay attention to their mental health. I don't blame them; it's difficult for men to open up about many things. Men go through a lot that they don't talk about. It's just not the way men are created, or perhaps it's the way society has evolved to keep men from sharing their most intimate thoughts because that makes men look weak.

The truth is that many men want to talk and open up about their feelings. They want to maintain a healthy state of mind and well-being. However, a lot of men face various challenges in their daily lives. For instance, in marriages, men struggle with financial responsibilities, employment, finding a balance between work and family life, sexual issues, and the responsibilities of raising children. In the workplace, men also encounter significant difficulties such as dealing with superiors, co-workers, and working conditions that may not meet their expectations or agreements.

Sadly, many men feel unable to speak openly about these challenges. They fear being seen as weak by their spouses and worry that their openness may be used against them in the future. Additionally, they are reluctant to confide in anyone else, including family and close friends, as they fear being perceived in a different light. Encouraging men to seek professional help or therapy is often met with resistance due to the stigma surrounding it. In Ghana, this issue is amplified by the fact that it is a close-knit society, and there is a genuine fear that private conversations with therapists or psychologists may become the talk of the town, despite the expectation of confidentiality.

What are men supposed to do? Stay silent and let mental illnesses that drive us to death continue to kill us? Certainly not. I'm happy to learn that June is dedicated to mental health awareness, especially for men. Perhaps this should be emphasised more. Let's create a safe space for men to seek help for any mental illness they may be battling or simply talk. Men need to come out of the shadows and share their experiences with mental health and how they overcame them. This would encourage other men facing the same or similar situations to seek help.

In addition, it is vital for men to focus on activities that help them relax. Taking time to enjoy nature and unwind can positively impact mental health. This can involve taking time off work, going on a vacation, spending time with family and friends, or simply taking some alone time away from distractions. 

Writing can also be therapeutic. Keeping a journal and pouring your innermost thoughts and frustrations on paper provides an avenue to deal with situations that can affect your mental health. The famous President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln is often quoted to have said, “Write a letter when you’re angry, but don’t send it.” So when you are not in a position to speak, you can pour it out all on paper. 

It may be challenging, but finding a trustworthy person to talk to can be beneficial. Moreover, if someone confides in you about their mental health struggles, it's essential to keep the conversation completely confidential, as it was likely difficult for them to reach out in the first place. When necessary, seeking professional help for mental illness ensures a proper diagnosis and treatment.

So, as we conclude the month dedicated to raising awareness for men's mental health, I implore you to encourage every man to prioritise their mental well-being. It could potentially save a life.


The author is the Legal Counsel to the President of Ghana, and a qualified lawyer in England and Wales, New York and Ghana. He is also a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum.

Source: Kow Abaka Essuman