Stress stalks SA men

2013-11-24 14:00

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South African men are stressed out.

They worry about relationships, work and not having enough money to provide for their families – but for many, talking about these problems just isn’t an option.

International research suggests they are not alone.

A recent study by an Australian research company, the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, revealed that young men in Australia were worried about the same things.

Reseachers also found many of them were sinking into depression and had even attempted or contemplated taking their lives.

This might explain why South African men are three times more likely than women to kill themselves.

The most recent mortality report released by Stats SA in April showed that 299 South African men committed suicide in 2010 – compared with 94 women during the same period.

Most of the men who killed themselves (235) were aged between 15 and 49.

Dr Trish van Zyl, a Johannesburg psychiatrist, explains that bottling up emotions tends to have a particularly negative effect in men.

“Many were told when they were young that boys don’t cry. And because of this, many end up suffering from depression and other mental disorders,” Van Zyl said.

Dr Mzikazi Nduna, associate professor of psychology at Wits University, agreed.

“They tend to internalise stressful experiences and externalise their behavioural response. Research shows that men beating their partners and the perpetration of rape is associated with distress,” she explained.

Nduna was referring to research published in the Journal of the International Aids Society, which showed that men who don’t talk about their problems often try to escape their frustration by engaging in risky and dangerous behaviour.

Although most men City Press spoke to admitted that they suffered in silence, many said they didn’t take out their frustration on other people.

Men’s health is in the spotlight this month. It’s Movember, when testicular and prostate cancer awareness takes centre stage. But men’s mental health is getting some attention too.

On Movember’s official page, there’s a whole section dedicated to helping men work through their stress and depression.

‘I feel like less of a man’

Walter Hluphi Motaung

Walter Hluphi Motaung has always believed that a “real man” is anyone who is able to provide for his family.

So when the 42-year-old lost his job three months ago, he was absolutely clear that he had failed in his duty.

Now, with Christmas around the corner, he finds himself stressing about the food and clothes his children will wear on Christmas Day.

“My children will be demanding new clothes and food, but I won’t be able to provide them. What kind of father am I?

“A ‘real man’ is somebody who fulfils his obligation and provides for his family. Right now, I feel like less of a man,” he says.

His two kids live with their mothers. He separated from his second wife recently, and now lives with his sister and her children.

He says he has found what he believes is a good way to deal with stress – playing music and travelling.

A provider’s quandary

Steve Matthewson

Steve Matthewson’s 18-year-old son wants to go study in the US.

But when Matthewson (43) saw how much he would have to fork out for tuition, he had to say: “No, I can’t send you there.”

Says the senior journalist and media executive: “That killed me because it felt like I had let my son down.

“I am supposed to provide for my family and when I can’t, it makes me feel like I am not doing what is expected of me.”

Though Matthewson and his wife are both breadwinners, he is aware of his responsibilities.

“How do men with families who work in the mines and get a salary much lower than mine make ends meet?”

Like most men, he prefers to keep his worries to himself. But he admits he doesn’t handle stress well.

“I feel torn when I am stressed and I throw things around.”

Bananas and crying help me relieve stress

Loyiso Mtya

Loyiso Mtya has a simple piece of advice for stressed-out men: eat a banana before you go to bed.

The 60-year-old chief executive officer of Boxing SA says this remedy works well for him and helps him sleep extremely well

at night.

Mtya’s main worry is failure. He says he panics when he realises that he may not be able to achieve his goals, or do what people expect of him. This, he says, sends his stress levels soaring.

When this happens, he tells himself it’s just his mind playing tricks on him.

And if that doesn’t work? You guessed it – he eats a banana.

Mtya also believes in crying as a form of healing.

“I might intimidate people out there, but I am really big on crying and I believe that crying is good. I cry when I am hurt and that helps to ease the stress.”

He says his ability to deal with stress by letting it out has enabled him to be a loving and kind parent.

However, he would not tell City Press how many kids he has, saying he’s not keen to invite speculation in the media.

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