Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Break the silence: Addressing men’s mental health


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Meghalaya reported 226 deaths by suicide in 2021,
nearly six for every 10,000 people, with the most
common reasons being marriage-related
issues, family problems and illness

By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, June 22: As June is observed globally as Men’s Mental Health Month, personal stories and statistics from Meghalaya underscore the critical need for increased awareness, support, and resources for men’s mental health.
One compelling account emerged from a current college student who experienced depression after enduring bullying in high school. “Initially, I couldn’t confide in my parents. When I finally did, they sought help from religious institutions, dismissing therapy as ineffective. It was only after I attempted suicide that they took me to a mental health expert. I’m still undergoing therapy, which has been immensely beneficial. There’s no need for anyone to feel apprehensive; society has a lot to say, but does it genuinely help you feel better?”
According to the Health of the Nation’s States report, depressive and anxiety disorders rank among the top 15 causes of years of healthy life lost due to disability (YLDs) in Meghalaya (occupying the 6th and 9th positions, respectively) (Hay et al., 2017). In 2021, Meghalaya recorded 226 deaths by suicide, approximately six for every 10,000 individuals, with the most prevalent reasons being marital issues, familial problems, and illnesses.
Dr Pakha Tesia of the Mind and Wellness Clinic in Shillong emphasized the significance of early intervention. “Prevention is superior to cure,” he stated.
“Just as you would seek an X-ray if you experience leg pain, you should seek help if you suspect something is amiss with your mental well-being. Men frequently delay seeking assistance due to societal expectations of strength and masculinity.”
Dr Tesia further highlighted the grim statistics. “While women are more susceptible to depression due to hormonal factors, men are more likely to commit suicide, often due to the lethality of the methods employed and impulsive actions. The patriarchal notion that men must embody strength and masculinity contributes to this issue. However, social media has been instrumental in encouraging men to seek help.”
Another man seeking anonymity recounted his struggle with near alcoholism following a career setback. “I was almost on the verge of alcoholism due to career failure. My friends helped me come out of it,” he said.
“It’s very important to have the right set of friends to support you during tough times. Whenever I cried, some friends told me to ‘shut up and be a man about it,’ while others said it was okay to cry. I know who I’m keeping close. I am in a much better space now, but those two years were the darkest time of my life.”
An individual identifying as homosexual shared his journey with mental health. “There was a time I contemplated taking my life. If not for the timely intervention of my parents, I wouldn’t be here today. I’m still struggling every day, but therapy has helped me not only with my mental health but also with my sexual identity. It was an eye-opening experience for my parents too, as they were new to many of these concepts but remained supportive and willing to learn.”
The urgency of addressing men’s mental health is reflected in national suicide statistics.
In 2022, India witnessed a rise in suicides, with 1,70,924 cases compared to 1,64,033 in 2021. Family problems, marriage-related issues, and illnesses accounted for over half of these suicides. The male-to-female ratio of suicide victims was 71.8 to 28.2.
Dr Tesia emphasised the critical need for professional help for suicide survivors. “We should not hide it because the chances of someone attempting suicide again are high.” Despite growing awareness, Meghalaya faces a significant shortage of mental health professionals. “For physical health, there are plenty of doctors, but for mental health, there are not enough,” Dr. Tesia noted.
To address these gaps, the Meghalaya state government introduced a mental health policy in 2022. The policy aimed to establish a helpline, crisis teams, and increase the number of beds dedicated to mental health care in primary and tertiary centers. The policy also intended to foster convergence between health and social sectors to provide comprehensive support; however, there has been no notable progress on the ground so far.


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