There is a popular Swahili phrase that goes, ‘mwanaume ni kuvumilia’. This roughly translates to, ‘the test of a true man is his ability to withstand trials’. A testament to the societal perceptions and expectations placed on men. As a result, men grow up believing opening up while suffering isn’t manly, even when you need help.
Although there are many other issues, mental health is one of those touchy subjects that men were traditionally not supposed to speak on. Despite the massive strides that have been made in the recent past, mental health remains a largely misunderstood subject. This has pushed men to remain silent and suffer in silence. We thus look at some of the unspoken reasons why men don’t talk about their mental health.
Lack of facilities and manpower
Mental health is recognized by general practitioners as an illness that requires treatment. However, there is an unfortunate shortage in manpower and facilities. A 2018 audit of the mental health system in Kenya, revealed that five out of six people affected by mental health issues don’t receive treatment.
On a larger scale, Kenya is among 54 of the WHO member states that lack a separate budget for mental health.This therefore renders whatever mental health policies put in place ineffective. In turn, it also hinders one’s desire to seek out the necessary help. This is because reaching out for professional help is likely to be both costly and unhelpful.
Fear of being branded a ‘failure’
Men are often expected to be beacons of strength. They are therefore expected to be able to handle anything that life throws at them. If you are therefore unable to cope with what life throws at you without help unlike people who don’t suffer from mental illness, then as a man it is highly likely that there is worry you’ll be branded a failure. As a result this is a big part of why men don’t talk about their mental health
Fear of discrimination
Once word is out there that a man is suffering from mental illness, it is highly likely they’ll be treated differently. This can easily snowball to the workplace. The perception that your mental health hinders you work ethic means your ability to handle your work load comes into question.
This is in addition to poor policies that don’t take people suffering from mental illness into account. It is thus very easy to find yourself pushed to the back burner. With a family to support it is thus much easier to not speak out even when suffering.
Whilst these are some of the major causes why men don’t speak out, they barely scratch the surface of what happens behind close doors. Each person’s experience with mental illness is different and should be treated as such.