Friday, December 1, 2023


Male suicide: Breaking the culture of silence

Male suicide: Breaking the culture of silence
November 19
17:23 2023

The theme of this year’s International Men’s Day is “Zero Men’s Suicide” and one of the six pillars of the celebration is to focus on men’s health and well-being: physical, social, emotional and spiritual. Interestingly, this year’s event has attracted unusual attention from governments and corporate organizations across. In Nigeria, Lagos State has, quite commendably, chosen an apt sub-theme, “Breaking the culture of silence” ostensibly to tease the men out of the age-old culture of machoism and suffering in silence.

For context, let’s looks at some somber global statistics on suicides. Suicide is ranked 4th in the global causes of death amongst 15-29-year-olds. The World Health Organization says over 700,000 people die every year due to suicide. Seventy-seven per cent of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries. Ingestion of pesticide, hanging and firearms are among the most common methods of suicide globally. Add jumping off the bridge or tall buildings and other tall structures. More specifically and tragically, 2 out of every 3 suicides are by men! It is, therefore, understandable that the United Nations have elected to beam the spotlight on men’s suicide this year and Lagos, one of the fastest cities in the world is at the forefront.

The major causes of suicide include loss of jobs, business failures, depression, drugs, discrimination, relationship break-ups and illness. The rising numbers of suicides can naturally be linked to the rising spate of these aforementioned factors. For example, the worsening global economic climate leading to general financial challenges and job losses have driven many to suicidal thoughts and ultimately suicide.

This time, the world is focusing on the men essentially not only because they are more exposed to stress and other social pressures but also because they are less likely to speak out and more likely to keep silent. This is why the government of Lagos State should be commended for championing the call for men to open up when driven to the edge. Tragically, the culture of silence, which stems from the false belief that “real men don’t cry or show pains” has led many a man to die literally and metaphorically in silence.


Regrettably, most men are brought up to believe it’s their job to look after everyone and everything else except themselves-the children, wives, parents, siblings, relatives, staff, even pets and cars! Some men will fix their cars first before checking the pains in their leg or growth in their armpit, for example. Look around you and ask the next person about their parents and you’re likely to find that the father, in most cases, is dead while the mother is still alive and living the life, so to say. I dare say men go through a lot and most of it is self-imposed or self-inflicted!

In Lagos of late, there has been a sudden outbreak of suicides and suicide attempts, which probably explains why the government has invested time and resources in this year’s International Men’s Day with special attentions to Men’s Mental Health and Suicides. According to Mrs Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, the Executive Secretary, Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency (DSVA), a comprehensive multi-sectoral suicide prevention plan is required for national interventions to be effective.”

Yes, indeed this plan is required and urgently. More importantly, the men should be taught to break the culture of silence, to open up and to seek help. Being comprehensive means involving everyone that should be involved including families, religious organizations, communities associations, employers or corporate organizations and all levels of government. An enlightenment campaign aimed at highlighting the leading causes of suicide and how to cope with suicidal thoughts should be launched as soon as possible. Families should desist forthwith from grooming male kids as superhuman, who should not betray their feelings, show pain and distress or reach out for help. On the contrary, being often in the frontline, men should be the first to speak out when they are challenged.


As Mrs. Vivour-Adeniyi proposed, every man should see the importance of having at least five people they can confide in when they are worried, troubled, stressed or even depressed and suicidal. Bottling up negative emotions can only deteriorate an already bad situation. Nothing whatsoever says, for instance, that a man should not cry when he loses a loved one or is dumped by his wife or girlfriend. Nothing.

So while men should be men, loving, caring, leading, they should also be loved and cared for. A good starting point today will be to show some love to the men in our lives, check on their mental, physical and spiritual well-being and make it a habit to do so regularly for you never know what they are dealing with or passing through. As they say, all lizards are lying down and no one can tell which one is suffering from stomach ache! At Airtel Africa and indeed all our 14 operations across Africa, we are marking this important occasion with a webinar focused on “Prioritising Men’s Mental Health in the Workplace”. As a policy, all the 14 markets have a Counselling Desk to provide guidance and support for men (and women) who have one form of mental health challenge or the other. This should be the rule not an exception in every corporate organisation.

On this rare and special occasion (it’s often International women’s this or World women’s that), while I commend the Lagos state government and indeed other governments and corporate organisations who are actively participation in this year’s commemoration. I congratulate my fellow men for being so fondly remembered. I urge them to reflect on their lives, take themselves out today and, if possible (and I don’t see why it should not be) buy themselves a present today. Guys, remember you’re human not superhuman. All those superhero movies where men are meant to save the world or the folklore where men are meant to be stoic are not real and can lead to suicide! And to the women, please support your men. Enough said.

Oparah is Vice President Corporate Communications & CSR at Airtel Africa


Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.

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