Men’s Health Awareness Month
“Thula sana, thula mtanami (Hush hush, hush my child). Big boys don’t cry. Man up! You don’t want the world to think you are weak, do you? Wipe your tears now.” That was our way of life as we grew, a society with no place for the boy-child to express vulnerability most especially through tears. To the boy child, the world was some form of a battlefield, and like a Spartan warrior there was no place to show emotions. The heart was groomed to be stoic and the mind-set battle ready.
Three decades later, and now a precious mother of three boys; it is not until recently I discovered that my disposition was still synchronized to a phrase that has done more harm than good, the phrase that my boys were now accustomed to: big boys don’t cry. Without taking time to listen to what was troubling my child, just the mere sight of a tear immediately hit the wrong nerve as I uttered words that ignorantly drove my sons into toxic masculinity. I thought I was doing justice for the boy-child.
I recently sat down with two of my male co-workers just to find out their thoughts and they alluded that most of who they have become “The big boys who don’t cry” started when they were young, something passed down from generation to generation. Due to those set standards of masculinity, even if they have issues that demand therapy, they end up hiding them for fear of stigmatization. Most men resort to coping silently, alone and in many instances through drug and substance abuse.
Of concern lately is the rise in men’s mental illnesses. Due to the stigma that shrouds men’s mental health, a few seek treatment as such denotes weakness, brokenness, and not being strong enough. I grew defining mental health as only associated with the dirty looking individuals living in the streets and picking food from the bins. I am not the only one who has lived with this notion for a very long time. Most societies especially in Africa are still a long way off regarding men’s mental health education and promotion resulting in most mental health cases remaining hidden and often overlooked. Increasing death statistics among men are making headlines worldwide with the leading cause being depression and anxiety that is leading to suicide.
However, a lot of organisations are now challenging the status quo. One such, is the Movember Foundation, a leading charity, redefining manhood and impacting the lives of men globally by standing in the gap to tackle men’s health challenges around prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. What started with just a few individuals, Moustaches in Movember has turned into a 30 day no-shave global movement igniting the required and necessary advocacy around men’s health. It’s not too late to join the movement. Remember, big boys cry too.
“For 30 days your moustache turns you into a walking, talking billboard for men’s health. By 2030 we’ll reduce the number of men dying prematurely by 25%. Help us stop men dying too young. Join the movement.” Movember Foundation