IMD 2023: Men’s Health Matters
International Men’s Day, observed yearly on November 19, is a global occasion dedicated to the recognition and celebration of the achievements and contributions of men to societal development. This year’s theme, tagged, ‘Healthy Men, Healthy World,’ is aimed at reflecting Men’s Health.
Although calls for an International Men’s Day (IMD) had been around since the 1960s, it was in 1999 that the day was conceived and coordinated by Dr Jerome Teelucksingh from the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago. He chose November 19 as the date partly because it was his father’s date of birth.
Over the years, the day has become a global celebration, addressing social issues faced by men across diverse cultures.
The day is used to celebrate men’s positive contributions to society, community, family, marriage, childcare, and the environment. It is also to focus on men’s health and wellbeing: social, emotional, physical, and spiritual as well as to highlight discrimination against men in areas of social services, social attitudes and expectations, and law. It also promotes gender equality and creates a safer, better world.
One of the key objectives of the Day is to challenge and break down stereotypes that surround masculinity and traditional stereotypes often depict men as stoic, unemotional beings, which can contribute to societal expectations that may impact men’s mental health.
By encouraging open discussions about emotions, vulnerability, and mental health, this day promotes a more nuanced and healthy understanding of masculinity.
To prioritise the social, spiritual, physical, and emotional health and wellbeing of men, promote gender equality and improve gender relations.
And more importantly, to honour the positive contributions men have made to the environment, marriage, community, family, and society.
In Nigeria, it’s a moment to celebrate the rich tapestry of Nigerian masculinity and challenge stereotypes that may limit the understanding of these diverse experiences. It provides an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations about men’s health, mental well-being, and more importantly, gender equality.
“To mark this year’s International Men’s Day and to create robust awareness for Prostate Cancer, the Dozy Mmobuosi Foundation staged a 5-kilometer walk on Saturday, November 18, 2022”
The event featured free prostate cancer screening for men above 45, while doctors were also available for blood pressure and blood sugar checks. Speaking on the walk, tagged, ‘The Dozy Mmobuosi Foundation March For Men Against Prostate Cancer’ the founder of the foundation, Dozy Mmobuosi, stated, “The primary goal of organising this walk is to create more awareness about Prostate Cancer and the importance of early testing among Nigerian men and also to encourage people to test to enable them in knowing their status and early detection of the disease.”
International Men’s Day is an ideal occasion to spotlight the importance of men’s health. Men, just like women, face unique health challenges, and this day emphasises the need for regular health check-ups, awareness of preventable health issues, and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle. The focus on men’s health extends beyond physical well-being to include mental health, encouraging men to seek support and fostering a supportive environment.
According to experts, encouraging men to openly discuss their mental health challenges helps break down barriers and creates a more understanding society. “This day serves as a reminder that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and promotes the idea that everyone deserves support for their mental well-being,” said Wale Akinlade, a psychologist.
“Celebrating positive aspects of masculinity, including fatherhood and positive role models, is an integral part of International Men’s Day. Acknowledging and appreciating the contributions of fathers and male role models helps strengthen family bonds and encourages positive behavior in future generations. This emphasis on positive role models contributes to the creation of a healthier and more supportive community,” Akinlade revealed.
International Men’s Day is not about promoting one gender over another; rather, it aims to foster a more equitable society. By recognising the challenges that men face, the day contributes to the broader conversation about gender equality. Emphasising that both men and women should have equal opportunities and rights best explain the reason for a collaborative effort towards building a more inclusive world.
Breaking Down This Year’s Theme
In the countdown to International Men’s Day (IMD) on November 19, 2023, Nigeria adopted the impactful theme: ‘Zero Male Suicide’ to address and eradicate the pressing issue of male suicide.
According to a content analysis by selected newspapers, also available on gpsych.com, it was observed that, Suicide is a significant issue globally, and Nigeria is one of the places where it’s particularly prevalent.
The aim of this research is to understand reasons for rising case of suicide in Nigeria by looking at demographic information and events leading up to these incidents, using data from newspaper reports.
The method included the gathering and analyses of reports of suicides from 10 English newspapers in Nigeria. After cross examination a total of 350 suicide reports between January 2010 and December 2019 after screening and organising the data.
On average, the reported cases were around 36 years old. The majority were male (80.6 per cent), married (51.8 per cent), students (33.6 per cent), living in semi-urban areas (40.3 per cent), and in the age group of 25–34 (25.3 per cent). The most common methods of suicide were hanging (48.6 per cent) and poisoning (32.2per cent). Financial difficulties and marital conflicts were the most frequently assumed reasons for these incidents. Recall this was about four years ago.
Hence, why ‘Zero Male Suicide’ takes the centre stage in the nationwide celebration, there is need for a collective effort aimed at eliminating the alarming rates of male suicides across the country. From the bustling urban centers of Lagos to the tranquil villages of Anambra, the theme urges communities to unite and tackle this urgent mental health crisis.
Mental Health Focus
The theme spotlights mental health with a focus on suicide prevention. It advocates for open, stigma-free discussions about the unique challenges Nigerian men face, fostering an environment where seeking help for mental health concerns is encouraged and supported.
Community Awareness and Education
‘Zero Male Suicide’ underscores the importance of community awareness and education. It calls for initiatives that educate communities about the signs of mental distress, emphasizing the role each individual plays in creating a supportive environment that prevents male suicides.
Accessible Mental Health Services
A significant aspect of the theme is the call for improved and accessible mental health services. It encourages the government, NGOs, and communities to work collaboratively to establish and promote mental health resources that cater specifically to the needs of Nigerian men.
‘Zero Male Suicide’ emphasises the need for swift crisis intervention strategies. It encourages the development of helplines, crisis centres, and community support networks to provide immediate assistance to men in distress, offering a lifeline in critical moments.
The theme empowers men to seek help and support one another. It challenges stereotypes and cultural norms that may discourage men from expressing vulnerability, fostering a culture were reaching out for assistance is seen as a sign of strength.
Inclusive Employers’ Role
Inclusive Employers actively supports the ‘Zero Male Suicide’ theme, providing practical ideas for Nigerian organisations. This includes hosting educational sessions, engaging local networks, and supporting mental health charities to collectively contribute to the eradication of male suicides.
Celebrating Nigerians Resilience
It has become a platform to celebrate Nigerians’ resilience amid the challenge of male suicides. As the nation gears up for the day, a tapestry of events unfolds across the country. From spirited conversations on mental health in local gatherings to communal activities promoting overall well-being, the celebration transcends regional boundaries, reflecting the resilience and strength inherent in Nigerian men.
From the streets of Abuja to the rural landscapes of the lower parts of Nigeria, this awareness symbolises a shared commitment to nurturing a healthier nation. They are urged to invite Nigerians to participate actively in events focused on the health and well-being of their men. Taking a Nigerian perspective, communities reflect why International Men’s Day is essential for fostering inclusive cultures. It provides opportunity to challenge stereotypes and celebrate the unique experiences of Nigerian men.
The Nigerian Perspectives
Emphasising the need for new conversations, Ayodeji Oduwole, an engineer, said, “the day invites sharing, listening, and drawing inspiration from the diverse stories of Nigerian men.”</span
He continued, “Inclusive Employers provides practical ideas for Nigerian organisations to celebrate IMD, such as hosting educational sessions, engaging local networks, organising community forums, highlighting inclusive role models, and supporting local charities or centers dedicated to improving the lives of underrepresented Nigerian men and young boys.”
Oduwole said: “In practical terms, organisations across Nigeria need to embrace inclusive practices. From educational sessions discussing the role of Nigerian men in promoting inclusion to fostering discussions within gender networks and creating safe spaces for men to share experiences, the celebration extends beyond the individual to encompass the collective well-being of communities.”
Amid the celebration, stories of resilience, diversity and strength have become the signature tune. From the vibrant city life in Katsina to the serene landscapes of Bayelsa, International Men’s Day becomes a platform to amplify the voices of Nigerian men, fostering new conversations and deepening the understanding of the challenges they face.
As Nigeria unites to celebrate International Men’s Day, the resounding message echoes: “Nurturing Men, Nurturing Unity.” It’s a call to action, an opportunity to bridge gaps, and a moment to celebrate the diverse experiences and contributions of Nigerian men. In Nigeria and beyond, the journey towards a healthier world for men and boys is a shared responsibility, and International Men’s Day 2023 serves as a guiding light, as a pointer that ‘Men’s Health Matters’.
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