What Is Men’s Mental Health All About?

SAFMH News Room
Awareness outreach around the mental health needs of men seems to conjure up various feelings; not least thoughts of “not again”, “leave me alone please”, and “seriously, you want me to come and talk? That’s NOT what I need. What I need is …”

But what is ‘men’s mental health’ really about? One way to answer this is to first consider the concept of mental health, and then the needs of men. ‘Mental health’ was defined by the World Health Organisation in 2001 as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”[1] So being mentally healthy is about being well, functional, contributing to society and the welfare of others, all according to one’s abilities.

Of note, ‘mental health’ does not mean coping with extraordinary or ‘abnormal’ stresses of life without taking emotional or psychological strain. Feeling stressed and mentally unwell under stressful circumstances is normal. ‘Mental health’ also does not mean having no illnesses. Dealing with sickness, including mental illness, is part of being human. Everyone will have to come to terms with and manage an illness of one kind or another at some time in their life.

What do men need to experience mental health? To me, it is understanding and inner strength. Understanding of yourself and of others; your desire regarding the person you wish to be and your abilities, as well as the desires and abilities of others. Inner strength enables acceptance of yourself and others, with gentleness, kindness, and patience. Inner strength allows you to be vulnerable; to own your problems; to ask for help when emotionally strained; to keep trying to live well; to support others. Inner strength enables you to accept your failings; to manage feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, anger, and frustration; to seek assistance in coping with stressors. Inner strength helps you come to terms with a mental or medical diagnosis; to participate in the treatment process; and to let others support you when you feel your inner strength is failing.

Finally, ‘men’s mental health’ is about being who you are meant to be, realising your abilities, and contributing to the wellbeing of others in your community. Mental health care services are intended to assist you in achieving your wellbeing.

A huge thank you to Professor Lesley Robertson (Adjunct Professor: Department of Psychiatry, University of Witwatersrand, Head of Clinical Unit: Sedibeng District Specialist Mental Health Team) for putting together this thoughtful piece.

Help is available. The National Suicide Crisis Line is  0800 567 567. This number is free, operates 24/7 and offers counselling in all 11 official languages. 


[1]WHO. (2004). Promoting mental health: concepts, emerging evidence, practice: summary report. World Health Organisation. Retrieved 13 June 2024 from https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/42940

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