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(Men)tal Health is a Life or Death Issue.

Our men are in turmoil and our women are in danger

Some headlines latch themselves into my mind long after reading them. Lately two have been swimming in my subconscious and although they seem unrelated, they are not mutually exclusive. The first is the story of a foul smell at a panel beating factory leading to the discovery of 6 women's bodies. The second is a report of increasing male suicide rates in South Africa.


The second is an unfortunate fact. Male suicides are on the up the in SA. “While women may be diagnosed with depression more than men, men don’t speak about their feelings till it is too late”, explains Cassey Chambers, SADAG (The South African Suicide , Depression and Anxiety Group) operations director. A look at the high profile, public suicides of male celebrities like Riky Rick and Patrick Shai tells the story of a nationwide problem. The World Health Organization reported that in 2019 “13,774 suicides were reported in South Africa. Of these deaths, 10,861 were men”.

Depression in men is not different from that of women but the signs are different. list the most common symptoms of depression in men as “irritability, sudden anger, increased loss of control, risk-taking and aggression”. Furthermore, “men may also be more likely to use alcohol and drugs to cope with their depression rather than talking about it.” Add to this the violence men are exposed to in our communities daily and we get a clearer understanding of why the mentality of violence and anger being the only acceptable emotions among men is still the norm. This mentality is not only costing men their lives.


The first shocking and sickening story is a common one of consequence. A lack of systemic and societal change is aching to occur in defense of our women. Women are on the short end of the daily displaced anger and powerlessness the men in our country are handed and massively ill-equipped to manage.

South Africa spent the majority of 2020 and 2021 under a State of National Disaster to protect her people from COVID-19. Between Oct 2020 and Oct 2022 approximately 70 000 people died from the virus (widely thought to be less due to inaccurate reporting from hospitals). From October to December 2021 902 women were murdered according to crime stats. In that same time 11 315 rape cases were reported. Using this as an average for the year, we can assume that in a year period 3608 women were murdered and 45 260 were raped (also understood to be widely under-reported). We are truly living in our own continued National State of Disaster from an epidemic of our own. And that is no understatement.


We’ve covered the violence men perpetrate against women and themselves but what of the violence men are inflicting on each other? In total 6 083 people were murdered in the first quarter of 2022. With 2.9% of convicted criminals serving time in South African prisons being women, it’s safe to say that most of these murders were committed by men. Our women, children, and indeed, men are being constantly traumatized by continuous aggression and violence perpetrated by men. As a result of this constant trauma and grief we are dealing with high levels of PTSD and depression as a country.

Increased, targeted government funding and specific public awareness programmes are imperative. NGOs and support groups are the best options we have right now for accessible treatment. With the stakes as high as they are right now, many men are taking it upon themselves to start male only support groups and finding true honesty, hope and vulnerability within this support structure. See below to find out how to begin one or where to find one near you.

South Africa, our men are in turmoil and our women are in danger. Men’s mental health has become a National Emergency, it's time we treat it as such.

Mental health help resources

SADAG suicide help line and other helplines :

Start or join a support group / Support group directory :


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