Men’s Health Week is celebrated annually during the week ending on Father’s Day. As recognised in the USA, Men’s Health Week honours the importance of the health and wellness of boys and men. Men’s Health Week provides an opportunity to educate the public about what can be done to improve men’s health. The response has been overwhelming, generating thousands of awareness activities around the globe.
The astounding response is largely due to men’s health not being something that we talk about enough. Whether it is stigma or machismo, or the idea that “boys do not cry”, men are not always getting the help they need for their health—specifically their mental health. Instead, they are told to “man up”. Psychological health and physical health are intertwined, making it even more baffling that men are not encouraged to talk about their feelings and mental illness.
“Talk about it.”
There is much evidence suggesting that “talk therapy” is invaluable in treating mental illness, but that is exactly where the problem lies. Not only are men less likely to give voice to their troubles, but they tend to be less likely to talk and more likely to do. Men are more action-oriented in general and feel that talking brings them nowhere.
Internal struggles are just as valid and in context, possibly more so than external struggles. Just because you cannot see a problem does not make it irrelevant.
Talk about it, get help. It is okay to not feel okay. In this respect, the Namibian context is the same as all over the world, but Namibia has its particular shortfalls and problems.
The situation in Namibia
Namibia is a country with an approximate area of 824 thousand sq. km. Its population is 2.011 million, and the sex ratio (men per hundred women) is 96. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are involved with mental health in the country. They are mainly involved in advocacy, promotion, prevention and rehabilitation. In the capital city, the German Evangelic Lutheran Church provides one accommodation facility for psychiatric patients who do not have a family to care for them.
A mental health policy and substance abuse policy are absent. However, the final drafts of policies are ready and have been submitted for approval. Mental health services are provided under the South African Mental Health Act no. 18 of 1973. This is even though the South African Mental Health Act has been updated in South Africa. Namibia is therefore using outdated legislation. A new bill is in the early stages of development. This is an essential element of reform that is needed to implement the Mental Health Policy. The latest legislation was enacted in 1973. There are also no budget allocations for mental health.
A major portion of psychiatric care in primary and secondary care settings is provided by nurses and social workers, due to a lack of trained psychiatrists. Private practitioners also provide mental health services, but these services are limited to those who can afford them. Traditional healers also play a considerable role. However, the number of those mentally ill individuals seeking services in this sector is unknown.
Steps to take:
- Seek medical attention. Your healthcare provider is used to dealing with these issues.
- Find healthier ways of sharing your feelings. Instead of lashing out in anger, breathe deeply, count to 10, and allow yourself some time to calm down.
- Research suggests that daily exercise can help relieve the symptoms of depression.
- Self-care. Besides exercising regularly, get plenty of sleep and eat nutritious meals with lots of fruits and vegetables. Avoid drugs and alcohol abuse.
- Being gentle with yourself can put you into a better mind to deal with your mood disorder. Getting treatment and learning some coping mechanisms can help bring these disorders under control.