Here Is A Call To Action on How to Heal Men’s Mental Health Crisis in Kenya

I have been think­ing deeply about the events of the past week, which have high­light­ed a silent cri­sis that needs urgent atten­tion to pre­vent an unprece­dent­ed nation­al dis­as­ter. The recent shoot­ing of a judge by a male police offi­cer dur­ing a ses­sion at Makadara court is both shock­ing and dev­as­tat­ing. The stress­ful death of Jahm­by Koikai and, short­ly after, her father Ambas­sador Daniel Koikai is a sit­u­a­tion that can add to a painful and stress­ful sit­u­a­tion. Addi­tion­al­ly, the Fed­er­a­tion of Kenya Employ­ers (FKE) reports that 70,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs in the past year, with sec­tors such as man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­struc­tion, which pre­dom­i­nant­ly employ men, being par­tic­u­lar­ly hard hit.As I pon­dered these issues, I felt pro­found pain for the affect­ed fam­i­lies and prayed for their strength dur­ing these try­ing times. It also struck me how casu­al­ly we have been about pro­tect­ing our judi­cial offi­cers and secur­ing our courts, even as we rely on jus­tice to safe­guard our coun­try. This trag­ic inci­dent involv­ing a police offi­cer points to a larg­er prob­lem — men’s men­tal health.

Accord­ing to the World Health Organ­i­sa­tion, men are less like­ly than women to seek help for men­tal health issues and are much more like­ly to com­mit suicide.

Accord­ing to a 2022 report by the Kenya Nation­al Bureau of Sta­tis­tics on the sta­tus of men and women in the coun­try, 56.9% of men and 43.1% of women suf­fer from men­tal dis­or­ders. Clear­ly, men are cry­ing for help and we as a soci­ety must heed their cry. The COVID-19 pan­demic’s stress and pain are still fresh, and in many cul­tures, includ­ing Kenya, men are seen as pri­ma­ry bread­win­ners. This soci­etal expec­ta­tion places immense pres­sure on men to pro­vide for their fam­i­lies, and job loss can lead to severe stress, anx­i­ety, and a sense of fail­ure, com­pound­ed by the stig­ma asso­ci­at­ed with unem­ploy­ment. The pres­sure mounts, espe­cial­ly mid-year when new year aspi­ra­tions seem off path, lead­ing to lost hope. It is no won­der June has been des­ig­nat­ed as Men’s Men­tal Health Aware­ness Month.

Giv­en these chal­lenges, I rec­om­mend three unique and prac­ti­cal solu­tions to address this crisis.

First­ly, we need to estab­lish and encour­age Men’s Sup­port Cir­cles with pro­fes­sion­al guid­ance. These ded­i­cat­ed sup­port groups can pro­vide a safe space for men to share their strug­gles, allow­ing vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty and receiv­ing guid­ance with­out stig­ma. Peer sup­port is pow­er­ful because men ben­e­fit from shar­ing their expe­ri­ences with oth­ers who have faced sim­i­lar chal­lenges, cre­at­ing sol­i­dar­i­ty and reduc­ing feel­ings of iso­la­tion. I have expe­ri­enced that activ­i­ties such as group singing can pro­mote emo­tion­al release, social bond­ing, and stress reduc­tion. Addi­tion­al­ly, phys­i­cal activ­i­ties, sports, crafts­man­ship, and gar­den­ing can pro­vide holis­tic support.

Sec­ond­ly, devel­op tar­get­ed employ­ment and skills train­ing pro­grams for men. Our voca­tion­al col­leges, uni­ver­si­ties, and indus­try lead­ers should estab­lish well-thought-out cur­ric­u­la geared towards upskilling men who have lost their jobs. Noth­ing beats the pow­er and joy of a man fix­ing some­thing by him­self. Pro­vid­ing train­ing in growth indus­tries such as tech­nol­o­gy, renew­able ener­gy, and health­care can open new employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties. Eco­nom­ic empow­er­ment through skill acqui­si­tion can boost con­fi­dence, reduce finan­cial stress, and improve men­tal health. Men­tor­ship pro­grams cor­re­spond­ing with these coach­ing ini­tia­tives can pro­vide lead­er­ship and encour­age­ment, help­ing men tran­si­tion into new respon­si­bil­i­ties and industries.

Third­ly, engage women in sup­port roles to fos­ter a holis­tic sup­port sys­tem. I have come to appre­ci­ate over my three decades as an eco­pre­neur that encour­ag­ing women to active­ly par­tic­i­pate in the sup­port sys­tem for men is cru­cial. Pro­vid­ing train­ing on how to sup­port part­ners, broth­ers, and friends expe­ri­enc­ing job loss and stress can cre­ate a sup­port­ive home envi­ron­ment. Unap­pre­ci­at­ed by many women, most men lose it right at home and in front of their most loved ones. Under­stand­ing the unique stres­sors faced by men can fos­ter empa­thy and more effec­tive sup­port. This approach can improve com­mu­ni­ca­tion and rela­tion­ships, offer­ing men a strong sup­port net­work at home.

As we nav­i­gate this cri­sis, it’s cru­cial to rec­og­nize that men­tal health is a glob­al issue affect­ing us all. By tak­ing these steps, we can build a more sup­port­ive and under­stand­ing soci­ety. Let’s unite to ensure no man is exclud­ed and that every­one can recov­er and flour­ish. Think green, act green!

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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