Dr. Naeem Dalal, Advisor for Non-communicable Diseases, Injuries, and Mental Health at AfricaCDC, emphasized the crucial need to dismantle cultural stereotypes preventing African men from seeking emotional and mental well-being assistance.
Speaking at the International Conference on Public Health in Africa in Lusaka, Zambia, Dalal highlighted the prevalence of suicide among men on the continent and stressed the importance of addressing cultural norms that discourage men from reaching out for help.
Dr. Dalal, a Psychiatrist from Lusaka, Zambia, specializing in youth mental health, serves as the National Mental Health focal person for the Zambia National Public Health Institute.
He noted that statistics specifically indicate higher rates of active suicide among men in Africa, attributing this to cultural expectations that discourage vulnerability and seeking help.
Highlighting the challenges faced by men in reaching out for mental health services, Dr. Dalal explained that societal expectations for men to be supportive, responsible breadwinners contribute to the reluctance to show vulnerability.
He pointed out that boys are often raised to be strong and responsible, creating further barriers for them to seek assistance when needed.
Dr. Dalal proposed solutions to address the issue, mentioning ongoing efforts by AfricaCDC in non-communicable diseases, injuries, and mental health strategies.
These include flagship programs focusing on mental health advocacy for communities and men’s health.
Mental health fellowships are being developed to build capacity among healthcare workers, aiming to encourage mental health specialization.
He highlighted the importance of advocacy, particularly targeting the younger generation, as suicide rates are significant among individuals aged 15 to 29.
Dr. Dalal commended Nigeria for recently passing a bill on mental health and stressed the need for policy changes to align mental health initiatives with current realities.
The International Conference on Public Health in Africa, organized by the Africa Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention, is ongoing in Lusaka, Zambia, from Nov. 27 to Nov. 30, with the theme ‘Breaking Barriers: Repositioning Africa in the Global Health Architecture.'”