He hung himself. And with him went beloved traditions, customs and beliefs that strongly defined an African man. Those things would be no more, as his body swung lifelessly from the tree in a small village in West Africa, slowly being changed by colonialism.
If you’re familiar with the actual novel that I’m hinting to in the above paragraph, you know the story that led to the final moments of the main character. Sadly, a man taking his life is becoming more common in Africa than ever before.
Since the book, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe was published in 1958; times have changed tremendously all over Africa. The culture and mindset of many countries have become westernized, meaning they’ve adapted to many European and American beliefs and way of life. More women have started working, becoming independent and making their own decisions. From a traditional standpoint, these changes have created frustration, confusion and unhappiness in relationships. What is more devastating is the fact that the mental and emotional needs of men in many African countries aren’taddressed or acknowledged at all. Thoughts and feelings are suppressed as socioeconomic changes set in. Sadly, this leads to crime, domestic violence and suicide.
In my novel that I’m currently editing, The Next Time I Leave, the male characters encounter tragedies of all kinds in different phases of their lives. One of them is humiliated and beaten as a child, another has his dreams and family ripped from him and then one faces continuous set-back while trying to advance in a fast-paced country. Trauma doesn’t discriminate. Crisis could not care less about who you are and where you’re trying to go. If there is no support or outreach from anyone to help take care of the spiritual, mental and emotional make-up of someone, theyare likely to fall into a deep hole that is hard to climb out of.
Mental health awareness is being introduced to African countries, but many times, men are left out of the equation. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to highlight some resources that are currently in place to help this critical issue.
In my podcast, The Writer’s Haven, I had the opportunity to chat with Bruce of AfroBloggers, a growing platform for African creatives. Bruce introduced me to the concept of the Friendship Bench, a strategy in Zimbabwe being used to get people to open up about their mental and emotional challenges. It was a great conversation and an eye-opener. It’s exciting because all of this is helping me put the pieces of my novel together. I am in the last stages of plot development and I can’t stress enough how each character has developed, showing their likes, hates, struggles and slip-ups.
I plan on sharing more details and pre-reads soon, so make sure you are signed up for the newsletter!
Please read the excellent article on African Men and Mental Health from AfroBloggers here.
To learn more about the Friendship Bench, visit them here.
To subscribe to The Writer’s Haven, click here.
For more information on suicide awareness and prevention, please visit the hotline website.