Sometime last year, the HuffingPost published an article on the alarming rate of depression statics amongst men in South Africa. They said the number was at an all-time high. Considering the climate in our country – strikes, job-losses, divorce and more – those numbers have not improved. But for some reason like all important information, this did not make any news.
As someone who lived through three suicidal depression episodes, I just feel the need to revisit this conversation and maybe shed some light on this very important topic. I hate labelling myself with a condition, so I don’t. (I think you shouldn’t either).
According to the American Psychiatric Association,
“Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act…”
They add that,
“Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home…Fortunately, it is also treatable.”
But it’s important that you understand that depression is not an event or phase that you can just walk through. Therefore chances of relapse are always possible, especially when you do not understand what triggers it in your life.
Secondly, there is more than one form of depression and each manifests in different ways. That is why you must seek professional help. Bazalwane! don’t just pray about it, sing over it or fakaza about it. Go see a psychiatrist or a trained counsellor. I know what I am talking about. I have been there.
One of the many things I did and still do is to educate myself on the topic. I realised that I cannot fight an enemy I do not know, and think that I will win – always. I had to read about coping with feelings of failure, images of death, sorrow and how to avoid superfluous spiritualisation of my circumstances.
I am naturally motivated by results – I love movement – but I had to learn who I am and what to do when the results are not favourable. When everything else falls apart. When friends leave and the money runs dry. When talent is not enough and gifts are not rewarded. I had to develop mechanisms to help me respond to my nakedness like it was a season and not a stain on my character.
I had to learn to detach my achievements from my identity. I am not my successes as I am not my shortcomings, those are byproducts of what I do. It’s so important to know that being depressed as a men does not mean you’re weak or worthless. It simply means you’re vulnerable like all humans. This is necessary because we craft our identity around what we do and society encourages that by asking this question,
“So, what does he do for a living?” in a men’s head this sounds like, “Who are you?”
Psychologist Zamo Mbele told HuffingPost,
“In adolescent men, untreated depression can manifest through substance abuse and self-medication. In young adults struggling with depression, it can manifest itself in alcohol abuse, which often masks a lot of depression. And you see the most violent suicides owing to depression in the middle-aged to older men category.”
According to Psychology Today, Researchers believe that some people react with anxiety to stressful life events, seeing danger lurking ahead everywhere—in applying for a job, asking for a favour, asking for a date. And some go beyond anxiety to become depressed, a kind of shutdown in response to anticipated danger. People who have either condition typically overestimate the risk in a situation and underestimate their own resources for coping.
To sum it all up, gentleman, I just want you to know that depression can be treated and you can live your best life, again.
If you are dealing with depression and anxiety or know someone, please contact: http://www.sadag.org or call 0800 567 567