Men hit harder by depression

The beautiful melodies which emanate from Duncan Village’s Siseko Pame’s violin are in fierce contradiction to the hardships the musician has had to overcome in his life.

Sexually abused at the age of 13 by his manager at a construction site where he worked as a teenager, Pame said he faced further trauma when his marriage ended at the age of 30, and he found himself unemployed and homeless.

After looking for greener pastures in Johannesburg, Pame said he was mugged at knife-point by a group of eight, who made off with all his worldly possessions which had been stuffed into a backpack.

Overwhelmed, Pame said falling in with a bad crowd saw him becoming addicted to methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth, which he said helped dull his pain.

The memorial service of cardiologist Professor Bongani Mayosi, who committed suicide last week due to depression, at UCT’s Memorial Hall
Image: RUVAN BOSHOFF

Pame said he did not realise at the time that he was suffering from depression.

“All of these things were happening to me but I never talked about it to anyone. I didn’t seek professional help,” he said.

“When I started smoking crystal meth, it became my coping mechanism … when I didn’t smoke, I became anxious.

“I soon realised the drugs were not the problem, the problem was all of the things stored inside me.

“But instead of a seeing a psychologist, I saw a lot of traditional healers who were keen to tell me what they saw when they looked at me … I still didn’t know that I was depressed.”

According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), research shows that men are less likely to seek treatment for depression as compared to women, and the suicide rate among men was four times higher than among women.

Top SA cardiologist Professor Bongani Mayosi’s suicide last week shocked the country. His family confirmed that he had been struggling with depression.

Sadag media liaison officer Kayla Phillips defined depression as a “whole-body” illness, affecting how a person ate, slept and thought about themselves and life.

East London-based psychologist Linda Truter said men and women mostly dealt with depression differently, with women being more open to talk, while men, who were born problem solvers, tended to bottle up their emotions.

Pame said it was a commonly held myth in society, particularly in the Xhosa culture, that “real men don’t cry”.

“It’s a lie. Men do cry, we can cry and we should cry. I’ve started my path to healing by writing on my Facebook wall because I just want to share. I also make use of the Sadag toll-free number whenever I feel heavy and I need someone to speak to.

“I want people, particularly men, to hear my story because I’m hoping I can help someone else out there,” Pame said.

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