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Mental health challenges facing modern African male

Written by Adeoye Oyewole
~PUNCH Nigeria. Thursday, February 21, 2019

The term 'man' is usually reserved for an adult male of the human species, while 'manhood' is used to describe the period after he has transitioned from boyhood, having attained secondary male sexual characteristics that symbolise his coming of age and assumes the responsibilities accruable to that status.

Masculinity may vary in different cultures, but it has universal principles across cultures which basically embodies assertiveness, responsibility, selflessness, ethics, sincerity, and respect that has strong associations with physical and moral strength. The biological inputs through hormones induce the process of physical maturity in the males, which redirects the biological processes away from the default female route.

In many cultures, displaying characteristics not typical to one's gender may become a social problem for the individual. However, labelling and conditioning are based on gender assumptions as part of socialisation to match the local cultural template. In the primitive hunter-gatherer societies, men were often, if not exclusively, responsible for all large game killed, the capturing, raising and domesticating of animals, the building of permanent shelters, the defence of villages and sustenance the family in all ramifications.

Each time the universally agreeable traits of manhood are challenged, anxiety and anger may be provoked leading to maladaptive behavioural patterns. With the globalisation of values, there is an increased liberation of the female gender with the attendant financial independence, among other things, which has been the premise of male domination over the centuries.

Although the actual stereotypes may have remained relatively constant, the values attached to masculine stereotypes may have changed over the past few decades, since it is argued that masculinity is an unstable phenomenon and dynamic in conceptualization. However, the old ideals of manhood are getting obsolete just as the new is still not properly defined as we grope in darkness which forms the basis of manhood and masculinity crisis with grave mental health consequences in societies like ours in cultural transition.

The typical modern African man has cognitive dissonance, with respect to his roles as a traditional dominant male in the family as he also attempts to espouse the western ideas that compel him to recognise his wife as a partner in the business of raising the family. The traditional stereotypes of the father as the breadwinner and the mother as a homemaker are almost historical in the light of today's economic realities.

The masculinity crisis ensues as men are in search of a role in modern societies since the traditional male attitudes are no longer in much demand anywhere. Deindustrialisation, which involves the replacement of old smokestack industries with new technologies, has allowed more women to enter the labour force with attendant financial independence. There is gender warfare through feminism that questions male dominance over women and their rights, coupled with the fundamental incompatibility between the core principle of modernity that all human beings are essentially equal (regardless of their sex) and the parochial tenet of patriarchy that men are naturally superior to women and thus destined to rule over them.

The Nigerian situation is serious because the current mental health consequences of this crisis are enormous. A good number of the boys drop out of school and indulge in cybercrime, just as they come down with substance abuse disorder. There is a growing population of young men that lack the emotional maturity and capacity to give leadership in a home even though married. True manhood, which finds its expression in creative leadership, courage, protection and nurturing of the female gender is never developed as a result of the maladaptive coping strategies in young adulthood.

It is equally disturbing that in most convocation ceremonies, the females may have 11 and only 1 for the males illustrating the manhood crisis emerging in Nigeria. Female employees appear more focused and competent than their male counterparts.

A good number of today's men were brought up by single mothers, who were the first set to have experienced this masculinity crisis that saw these boys grow up without a man in the house. The single mothers effectively train the girls and the boys play the role of surrogate husbands as he does not take responsibility in the house with reckless access to mummy's money and car, while his female siblings plan the budget and do house chores. The boy then grows to become irresponsible and turn round to invoke the traditional attributions of dominance without responsibility resulting in high rates of divorce, growing population of marriageable ladies without matured young men to marry them.

The increasing rate of mental health disturbances among men ranges from depression masked with alcoholism, anxiety disorders, substance abuse disorders, and frank nervous breakdown.

The situation requires urgent attention from all stakeholders, which will be discussed in subsequent articles. The men also cry but differently.


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