SUICIDE continues to be a major public health concern in the country and research has shown that it is consistently ranked in the top leading causes of death with males at a significantly higher risk of suicide than women across all age groups.
For example four men in Bulawayo allegedly committed suicide by hanging in separate incidents last week.
The sh0cking cases come after police recently revealed that the city records an average of four suicides a month mostly by men.
“On the 15th of July 2023 at around 3pm, a male adult aged 35 of Emakhandeni Bulawayo was walking along a footpath from Entumbane Complex proceeding to his place of residence. When he reached a bushy area near Woza Woza Shopping Centre, Bulawayo, he discovered the deceased hanging from a tree branch,” said acting Bulawayo police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Nomalanga Msebele.
She said the man then phoned the police who came and discovered that the now deceased who is in his late thirties was hanging from a wire. The deceased was wearing a black jacket, khakhi work suit trousers and a pair of farmer shoes.
Asst Inspector Msebele said on the second incident which happened on 14 July, the now deceased Michael Gonye (28) was complaining of tonsils and was left home sleeping by his father.
“The father returned home at around 2230 hours and went to his bedroom to sleep. On 15 July 2023 at around 8am, the father woke up and looked for the now deceased in his room but he discovered that the door was locked from inside. He forced open the door and found his son hanging from the roof truss.
The deceased used a belt to hang himself,” said Asst Inspector Msebele.
On the third incident, on 6 July the now deceased’s father went to Douglasdale feedlot at Pinedale Douglas-Dale where he works and left his son alone at home who had just been released from Khami Prison.
When the father returned home on 15 July and at around 1730 hours, he found his son hanging from the roof. He used a rope to hang himself from the roof truss.
As if that is not enough, on 11 July a 56-year-old man from Mahatshula North suburb hanged himself after a dispute which led to his wife’s death.
The above cases are just a reflection that men maintain the highest rate of death by suicide compared to women.
So what are the contributing factors to male suicide?
According to culture, men are expected to be breadwinners, providers and strong. There is no room for anything less. When this expectation takes a toll on men they are likely to commit suicide.
Mental health expert and family counsellor, Gamuchirai Chinamasa, said factors that can contribute to suicide in men include lower socio-economic status, unemployment, relationship breakdowns, alcohol or drug misuse and divorce.
“These factors are influenced by how men are raised in most societies because they are raised to be strong, not to cry, complain or speak of their issues but to handle it like a man and toughen up therefore making them to not speak up or seek help when in need of it. For example having to worry more about finances or trying to find a job can exacerbate mental health issues for men,’’ said Chinamasa.
A psychologist who preferred anonymity said cultural expectations put pressure on men to repress how they feel from the public.
“Men are told they need to be tough and that they should not need to ask for help. Such rigid gender norms may make it difficult for men to reach out and ask for support when they need it,” the psychologist said.
A university student Mike Ndebele said more men die by suicide than women because they may be less likely to admit when they feel vulnerable, whether to themselves, friends and their spouses.
“The reason why most men commit suicide is because they often do not disclose feelings of depression to their spouses, peers, doctors and relatives. Another reason is that so many people leave us feeling like we are already dead from inside,” said Ndebele.
Bulelani Gabula said: “Men love power and respect, that is not a secret. If a man does not feel powerful over his woman, he knows other men cannot respect him. There is nothing men hate like not being respected by fellow men hence others they resort to violence or commit suicide”.
When asked about what can be done to deal with the suicide in men, Chinamasa said:
“Although there are no straightforward solutions to this complex issue but one has to first get to the root of the issue as suicide is always the last resort. This means there is a need for creating awareness on the issue, avoiding stigma and discrimination on people who have traumatic experiences, having affordable mental health facilities, affordable medication and ending the supply of dangerous drugs and misuse of alcohol.
“These measures will help to prevent suicide particularly in men. There is also a need for people to be aware of the signs of someone in distress or dire need of help and what to do or where to go to get help”.