The Modern Man

The modern man appears as one who is well groomed and seems to be up to date with what’s happening in the world. He keeps up with the latest trends and can easily adapt to any situation that they find themselves in. He is fashionable and takes good care of himself. He is comfortable in his own skin; therefore he doesn’t make others feel uncomfortable. The modern man can be found anywhere in the world but the one thing about him is that he still finds it difficult to open up or express his emotions.

The man of today seems to be evolving but if you take a closer look, you’ll realise that the lessons of the past continue to cause a ripple effect. The man of today, just like the man of yesterday, still finds it hard to express himself or how he feels because he believes that it is weak. Men are very egotistical and would rather suffer in silence than to admit that they’re at a point where a little help could indeed go a long way. This inability to express oneself results in unnecessary aggressiveness and sometimes anger, which acts as a surface emotion for frustration. The constant command to bottle things up even when they’re overly heavy just because you’re a man can be frustrating.

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This then leads to substance abuse which is also known as “slow-motion suicide”. We may not realise it or simply choose to be ignorant about it, but every time we get caught up in substance abuse, we’re getting closer to our final days on Earth. However, death is not the only side effect of substance abuse, there are a lot of them, but one which we seem to turn a blind eye on is the physical abuse that comes with substance abuse, and in this case, we’re talking about abuse that is inflicted on others. It seems that once the man becomes frustrated and has handed himself over to the substance, the adverse effects are that he begins to abuse the people who are close to him. What we need to understand is that all this stems from frustration, but how can we begin to understand that if we do not give men the platform that they need to express themselves so that they can become better individuals? In the same breath, what steps have to be taken to allow men to be ‘weak’ enough to open up?

At this current moment, we are well aware of the suicide rate and its constant increase. This is the time to get involved. This is the time to be hands-on and make the necessary moves for the sake of suicide prevention. Since the death of Hip-hop Icon, HHP, suicide amongst men has come to the forefront especially in black communities, and we realise that the media doesn’t really dwell on such cases, but more people are being moved by this issue. One would think that men prefer to not to talk about things that that bother them but that’s because they have been conditioned not to have feelings. Men have been taught by those before them not to show any weakness because they are the heads of the family or simply because “what will people say?” Who has ever stopped to ask themselves: what does this man need? The lack of freedom of expression that men are subjected to leads to them believing that suicide is the only solution, and in some extreme cases, murder too. There are men that have taken their families with them simply because they could not bear the thought of their families struggling without once they’re gone. This on its own is a topic that needs to be explored further.

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Another topic of discussion is men that belong to the LGBTI community. Not all of these men are openly gay and ready to be accepted by society for their so-called flaws. Some are even fighting their “demons” because society and the church have made them believe that there’s something wrong with belonging to that community. There are men who’ve committed suicide simply because they couldn’t accept themselves as they are and they never make the news. Even those who have accepted themselves still struggle with rejection and sometimes on a daily basis by those that are close to them or those that they work with. Everyone needs a sense of belonging and without it, we become lost. It’s hard to live comfortably in a world that has you believing that you need to fix yourself. Where the LGBTI community is concerned, this is not an issue that is given much attention. We are well aware of hate crimes, which are external, but it’s time to also focus on what’s happening internally.

After reading tons of articles, trying to decipher exactly what it is that gets the man down, we came down to two conclusions: unemployment and marriage or divorce, whichever way you choose to look at it. Men being the egotistical creatures that they are, cannot be in a position where they are unable. The inability to provide for their families is one of the biggest reasons why they fall into a deep state of depression. In some cases, it’s not that they cannot provide for their families, but they themselves feel that it’s not enough and they can do better but because that’s not happening, it leaves them feeling frustrated which then results in depression. Again, because of their egotistical nature, men tend to compete a lot. They’re always on a constant strive to be the one that has more or that can do better. For a man who is unable, this causes serious harm to the ego. Speaking of competition, you would think that a man getting married would suffice as the kind of stuff men would compete over, but in some cases, this is seen as a form of emasculation. Suddenly all those things you used to do as “boys”, you can’t necessarily do because you are now someone’s husband. It’s quite interesting, but this also paves way for the second conclusion we reached: divorce.

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For many men, but especially women, marriage and a family is one of the milestones that is used to measure how successful our lives are. When all of that is taken away from you, it can feel like your whole world is crumbling right in front of you. What was once a happy home ends up in court over a custody battle and we know that in most cases the men never win. What was once your pride and joy is taken away from you and you feel like there’s nothing left to live for. It’s a heartbreaking situation that would really push one to the verge of suicide and this is such a common thing because almost 50% of marriages, and this is so shocking, but almost 50% of marriages result in divorce. It’s a cause for concern. Is it the men? Is it the women? Is it compatibility? There’s a lot that could possibly be going wrong in the marriage and maybe it’s time to take a closer look at that too because it’s more than just the inability of the man that can cause a marriage to reach its end. Divorce is one of the biggest causes of depression and maybe we need to start stressing the importance of couple’s therapy, something that needs to come before marriage is even an option.

As mental health activists, we are so quick to stress that men should seek mental health services, but in all honesty, those services are limited, especially for men. If they’re not limited, then there’s not much being said about them. We need to reach a point where we recognize that we are losing great men because of mental illness. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye on this matter and we have to take an active approach in ensuring that this vicious cycle comes to a stop. Yes, there are mental health services, but how many of them are customised for the man? How many of them actually look into the anatomy of a man and try to customise their contents or activities in such a way that it not only accommodates the man but also makes them feel comfortable enough to open up. Opening up is not a fun process but it’s needed for one to be able to advance to the next level of their lives. Talking about something doesn’t mean all that information goes in vain, something transcendental happens when we tap into that zone. The government should also be active in taking care of the man’s needs, even if they are; it’s time they did better too.

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The one thing that we need to do more of is to educate the masses about the symptoms they should be looking out for. Things like insomnia or even oversleeping are symptoms of depression. We should be alarmed and be ever-ready to take the necessary precautions. Suicidal thoughts are not the only things we should be looking out for but other symptoms as well which we will compile as a list in our next article. These can serve as a checklist to see just how well we are coping and also aid us in getting the help that we need. Every man needs that checklist so that we can begin to redefine the modern man and see him come to life.

The modern man is a man who is in touch with emotions. He knows himself so well that he avoids anything that could trigger any form of depression or anxiety. He interacts with people that are on the same level as him, people who are self-aware because self-awareness is the most powerful tool. The modern man realises that opening up actually makes him stronger. He encourages his friends to speak up and he’s always ready to lend an ear or any other form of assistance for the wellbeing of those that are around him. He does his research and is open to the idea of therapy because he understands that it’s necessary for his evolution. He’s constantly adopting effective ways to cope with daily stresses and has managed to have everything under control. It won’t be long until this man is a reality. This man probably exists, but it’s time he showed up.

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If you are on your journey to becoming the new definition of a modern man, SADAG is here to help. They have a project called ‘Real Men. Real Depression’ and boasts some of the countries strongest men who have overcome a lot of their own personal challenges. Do give them a ring on 011 783 1474. Until then, let’s keep working on becoming the new age modern man.

 

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Smiley Faces – Gnarles Barkley

The first time I heard this song was on Dancing With The Stars South Africa, where Zola Nombona and her partner, Tebogo, did the Jive. I remember rewinding the performance, just to catch the lyrics so that I could Google them and I’m just glad I did that.

Everything about this song says SMILE! DANCE! LIVE! It’s such a fun song and an old one at that but I can’t fight how current it feels and how it just brightens the current state that we find ourselves in.

There’s something about music being timeless, here’s a piece that I feel everyone needs on their phones, and in their cars. This song is such a mood lifter.

Listen to it here:

So, that’s how we end the week of Acceptance and now we prepare for Redefining The Man, make sure you’re here for that one next week. Follow us on all our social media platforms to keep up with our latest updates. 


True Story: Beauty In The Mess

Sometimes, situations in life force you to succumb to new beginnings whether you’re prepared or not. For me, this happened as a teenager when my mother, who is my rock, was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. I won’t lie, at first it was not easy and eventually I had to come to terms with what was happening in our lives. When my mother was diagnosed, I was confused and I blamed myself because of the lack of knowledge I had about the illness. I was also too young to have an opinion on the matter and all sorts of things were tried including consulting traditional healers. Seeking help for any mental illness, let alone Schizophrenia, is extremely difficult. As a teen, I also felt embarrassed because I did not understand how my mom, a person I knew to be the strongest human alive, could acquire such an illness. For me to live in this new reality, I had to accept that my mother was not the same anymore and for me to help, I had to ensure that I got rid of the overwhelming feelings I had about the whole situation.

Looking back I also realise how difficult this was for everyone. Along with taking care of his wife, my dad also had to be strong for me and my little brother. My little brother had a chunk of his childhood taken away from him and he didn’t even understand why that was happening. He also depended on me as his older brother to be strong for him. I thank God for my mother’s family and our neighbours otherwise I don’t know how my father and I would have coped.

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Teaching myself about the illness also made me realise how much my mother needed me and my family more than ever, because if this whole thing was scary for us, can you imagine what she was going through? I see so many people being obsessively drawn to characters we see on the media with mental illnesses and some statuses about mental health from people who don’t really understand or pretend to care for the sake of likes on social media. The truth of the matter is that people are uncomfortable with the mentally-ill, be it people suffering from anxiety, depression, etc. They look with judgment and turn the other way when an ‘unstable’ person asks for help and when it is too late, we see posts of sympathy and all kinds of statuses on social media from those very same people. Meanwhile, for some of us, the whole topic is very close to home.

I had to learn to take care of myself so I could be there for my mother. I realized that I had to allocate time for myself to ensure that I learn or do something new every year. I wanted to make sure by all means that I succeeded with my studies so that I could have a good job and be able to take care of her. It took me a while to accept this reality but when I eventually did, things got much easier and this felt like a new beginning. As I had promised myself, I started learning new things like aerobics when I started university. I learned Ballroom and Latin dancing and took some swimming lessons, just to mention but a few. These helped me not to be constantly consumed with thoughts about my mother’s illness. I think to some degree it put her at ease when I would come home with medals and trophies and we would always celebrate. This made her see that whatever she was going through was nothing we couldn’t handle because it did not stop us from living our lives and achieving our goals.

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Finding her a good psychiatrist was the best thing we ever did – this is, unfortunately, a necessity that not everyone can afford. However, it did not only help her but all of us as a family because now her illness is managed. It also made me realise that as much as we wanted her to get better it was something that she also had to want for herself. When she saw us living and doing our best to succeed it also motivated her to want to be better so she can continue to see our achievements and be there to celebrate them with us no matter how small they are.

“Ask questions, we do not know everything.”

I hope whoever is reading this will realise that life is a journey and not an easy one. Ask for help and seek support systems that are available to you. Ask questions, we do not know everything. Life is not a lesson that comes with a manual but that’s what makes it beautiful and meaningful. My mother’s condition has not only taught me resilience, but it has also further given me the courage to be open-minded and keen to learn more about the condition so I can educate others. Worthy of a mention, is how my mother’s condition has motivated me to stay consistent and keep going in the stream of my dreams. You see? Nothing is out of place here and everything is as should be.

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