There are lines that cross between toxic masculinity and depression in men. Due to how "strong" our society expects men to always be, most of us never seem to care about the emotional turmoil some of them go through. This is the case in Nigeria, a country where men are supposed to be the "heads of the house" and not soft sissies who show emotion or suffer depression.
Are you aware that it has been projected that by 2020 the burden of mental health disorders will reach 15%? Depression will cripple people’s health more than a lot of life threatening diseases like Aids. It has been reported that Nigeria ranks 30th most suicide-prone country worldwide. I think a lot of people are oblivious to this statistics just as we are silent on mental health issues.
The increase in suicide cases in the last 2 years is startling, even in Nigeria where people just considered it a non-Nigerian (African) problem. Clearly there has been an obvious rise in suicide cases here and I do not think it just started. There is definitely an increase and it is not alien. I believe we are at a stage where we are now better at documenting and openly talking about it. If you are Nigerian and you are reading this, you guessed right!
A lot of religious Nigerians believe depression is spiritual, they think there is something in the spiritual realm making people jump into lagoons or swallowing insecticides in an attempt to kill themselves. Again they are ignoring everything going on in the minds of people living in a highly stressful environment as the current Nigerian situation keeps driving them over the edge.
I am more worried about men when it comes to mental health issues, not because they are more affected but because women are better at talking about their feelings than men. With men, mental health is such a sensitive conversation and the stigma starts from the society. In Nigeria when we talk about mental health, the picture that comes to mind is that of raving mad people running around the streets and causing distress while eating straight out of garbage cans. The picture is never of the boss at work who must lead at all costs no matter what he is going through, not even when he has lost his mother or caught his wife cheating. It is never the picture of the comedian who cracks jokes with a plastered smile on his face while the pieces crumble within.
Depression is sometimes likened to sadness, and sadness is a symptom of depression which can last for really long periods of time. Depression puts one in a state of hopelessness and affects their ability to function. Even for those who see the signs, they simply cannot fathom walking into a facility to be evaluated. Somehow men already feel stripped of their masculinity and sanity at the mention of psychologists. Sadly, they see it as a form of weakness. Losing someone or even a job can put one in this situation. Then, there is the pressure overachieving men place on themselves, which sets them off when they don’t reach their life goals on time or at all. It is okay to open up about these things that men feel they are expected to deal with.
Do not get me started on the ‘’be a man’’ projection which only serves to promote toxic masculinity and unfortunately starts from childhood. Imagine telling a boy that has just lost his mother to be strong and not cry, this child will grow up without any form of emotional intelligence and will most likely lack empathy. Men have been reduced to rocks and when it comes to vulnerability, their emotions are expected to be packed into a box and drowned at the bottom of the Red sea. The question remains, "Is society creating imbalanced ‘’cold’’ men? The answer is "Yes!"
I have seen my father cry at the loss of his brothers and grandson, I have seen my brother cry for the same reason and I never saw them as weak. Seeing them show emotion only gave me the impression of how strong they were to let their loved ones in on their pain, and at no point did I think; ‘’look at these weak sissies.’’ What I did instead was to comfort them, because that is exactly what you do to people in pain.
Here's a line from my poem:
Depression is like finding your air in between sheets of wasted sin, and a "muffled" says; it’s not what you think.
Let these men speak!
Dear men, it is okay to be vulnerable and anyone who has a problem with you being in tune with your emotions has no place in your life.
Anastesia is a writer and blogger based in Abuja, Nigeria. She writes poems and also works as a playwright in the Nigerian movie industry (Nollywood).
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