Mental health of men has been a silent crisis but there are signs that this silent crisis is at last awakening. Where statistics are available, there is evidence that more young and middle aged men are being hospitalised just as there is evidence that new fathers are vulnerable to depressive illness after childbirth. The greatest evidence of male vulnerability is in suicide statistics. For instance, four out of every five suicides are male in Canada. In the U.K, men are about three times more likely to kill themselves than women. Newspaper and magazines articles continue to feature the decreasing number of men in the workforce or the decreasing percentage of boys graduating from high school and college.
Television and radio talk shows regularly focus on the changing roles for men as women increasingly enter the public workforce and challenge the traditional, restrictive, feminine roles.
Masculinity generally embodies assertiveness, responsibility, selflessness, ethics, sincerity and respect. This naturally implies physical and moral strength which invariably constitutes the challenge of manhood.
With the globalization of values, there is an increased objectification of both sexes. Although the actual stereotypes may have remained relatively constant, the value attached to masculine stereotypes may have changed over the past few decades. The old ideas of manhood are getting obsolete, just as we grope in darkness in search of the definition manhood in modern Africa. The modern African man has cognitive dissonance as regards his roles as a dominant figure in the family as he also espouses the western ideals that compel him to recognize his wife as partner in the business of raising the family.
Traditional stereotypes of the father as the breadwinner and the mother as homemaker are almost historical in the light of today’s economic realities.
Deindustrialization, which involves the replacement of old smoke stick industries with new technologies has allowed more women to enter the labor force and reduced the demand for great physical strength. The masculinity crisis with its grave mental health consequences arise from the fundamental Incompatibility between the core principle of modernity that all human beings are essentially equal regardless of their sex and the parochial tenet of patriarchy that men are naturally superior to women. This cultural code governing men’s behavior is one of the prime barriers preventing them from seeking help. It is easier for men to acknowledge physical symptoms rather than emotional ones hence their mental health problems go undiagnosed. A good number of men do not even believe that they are susceptible to mental health problems just as many of them may describe their own symptoms of depression without realizing it.
The consequences of masked depression in men express itself in the form of undue hostility and irritability, verbal violence and abusiveness especially in the marital relationship. Some may even take to excessive drinking, substance dependency and indiscriminate sexual escapades. Even in cases of marital breaks up; the mental health consequences are grave but masked in men. Man’s focus on competition and feeling powerful can also be adversely affected by unemployment or retrenchment.
In Nigeria, we may not have eloquent Statistics illustrating this emerging trend in men’s mental health but anecdotal report shows that these issues exist especially with the emerging western cultural impacting on our traditional values. The ongoing economic challenges of our time has dislocated many growing families as our wives are more financially and socially empowered team players rather than passive subordinates.
Marriage naturally should be a strong therapeutic template for these embattled men however due to wrong approaches embedded in overt cultural and gender activism; it has become a strong precipitant of mental ill health. Marriage should play protective, supportive and inspiring roles for men if intelligently managed as a synergy .I am worried about the growing population of men in their mid life who have lost their jobs, lost their economic and social relevance and inadvertently hooked into alcoholism against the background of a failing marriage. Wives in this situation are obviously mentally burdened and breaking under the emotional and economic challenges of the situation just as children are not being properly nurtured since the father has lost the drive to continue. There is a need for professional intervention in such cases since most religious prescriptions may not interrogate all the issues involved.
Men may need to shed their ego and move on with life as they try hands on certain jobs which may not be as respectable as the ones they have lost while the women should continuously deploy the use of their enormous emotional intelligence proactively in the setting of synergy to manage men in their prosperity days so that when there is saving or economic initiative for the raining day. This is one of the most profound roles of women in creation.