Guest Column

Real men ask society for help

2017-03-05 06:10

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Mbuyiselo Botha

Wayne Westner is an example of a man who wasn’t able to admit failure. Even men get overwhelmed and need help when they find themselves cornered.

Wayne Westner was part of a successful golf elite. The 55-year-old was famous for winning the SA Open in 1988 and in 1991. He won 14 professional events, including two European tours, as well as the 1996 World Cup gold with Ernie Els.

One could safely say Westner had a good career and an affluent lifestyle, probably driving a state-of-the-art car and living in an upmarket estate – all the trappings that would define him as successful. And this is the social script that is pronounced on men and that seems to give us the power and control that we strive for.

After many years of living a life away from the public eye, Westner died this year in his home in Pennington on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast. He is said to have died from a gunshot wound to the right side of his head, after holding his wife hostage. Details around what led to his suicide are unavailable.

I need to say upfront that I didn’t know Westner personally, and my heartfelt condolences go out to his wife and children.

Westner is an example of a man who wasn’t able to admit failure. There should have been an opportunity for him to seek help so that society could have had some insight into what he was going through. Even men get overwhelmed and need help when they find themselves cornered.

This social script prescribes that when men grow up, we are expected to be leaders of society. Even when you know you can’t cope, you are forced to keep up because society expects you to. Our jails are full of men who took to crime in an effort to find the means to prove that they fit into that script. The respect we have as a society for our men is centred on material things. This forces them to do anything to get those things.

When will men stop keeping issues inside and not seek help when problems around us arise? When are we going to stop succumbing to the pressures of life instead of asking for help when we realise that we are overwhelmed by the script that society penned for us?

Men need to move away from the narrative that going to a psychologist or counsellor makes you less of a man. We can only seek help when we redefine what it means to be a man. We need to create a new man, where our boys know that it’s okay to fail.

The Bible talks about a man being the head, but there are few societal structures created to support men because they are expected to be strong. Our Calvinistic societal history dictates that men are the breadwinners and should stay strong and lead.

When we as men are overwhelmed, we yield to this materialistic societal pressure, rather than seek help.

There are far fewer women who commit suicide because women talk to other women and seek help. Men should emulate this and stop associating weakness with women. Only a strong man knows when he is down and needs help. An even stronger man talks about his problems and seeks help in resolving them.

Botha is commissioner with the Commission for Gender Equality

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