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International Men’s Day: 'MENtal' Health Matters

Published:Tuesday | November 19, 2019 | 3:48 PMDanik Frazer - Gleaner Writer

We are once again at that time of year when men are at the forefront of everyone’s mind for International Men’s Day. This year, the theme is 'Making a difference for men and boys', under the larger heading of 'Men Leading by Example'.

The Bureau of Gender Affairs (BGA), a division of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport; The Jamaica Mental Health Advocacy Network; as well as numerous other men’s organisations across Jamaica, are focusing the theme on the Health and Wellness of the Jamaican male psyche under the BGA’s theme of ‘Building Strong Men Through Health and Wellness: Balance di Ting’. In doing this, they highlight the need for a focus on men’s mental health as well as ultimately improving men’s lives.

Why Mental Health?

For too long, Jamaica has left behind the importance of mental health with dismissals of depression as a "foreign ting", PTSD as “stop look attention” and anxiety as “stop gwaan like idiot”. This has contributed to many problems in the Jamaican psyche, and as Gender Advocates and Scholars would say, can be traced as a part of the problem which contributes to things like Gender-Based Violence (GBV) which has seen a significant and troublesome rise in Jamaica over the past few years.

The BGA’s theme promises something that has been left so far behind - the importance of building the emotional intelligence of Jamaica's men and boys. Building emotional intelligence includes building men’s self-worth through education and the promotion of why their mental health matters, which dismantles traditional and fundamentally toxic ideals of masculinity, opening up young men especially, to a better understanding of themselves.

For Acting Director of Policy and Research at the BGA, Nardia McLaren, it is an occasion which aims to also highlight the achievements and contributions of Jamaican men, as she told the JIS, “We need our boys to ‘balance di ting’ because mental health and awareness is very important. Mental health is not only being diagnosed as being sick, but mental health has to do with the whole mentality of the man.”

Helping men to understand the important role they play in the wider Jamaican community, will help to build their positive participation in society and be better nation builders, and to be prosperous in their everyday lives.