#GFMMensHealthMonth conversation with Sex Indaba’s Dr. N.E Shabalala
Written by Brooklyn Masuku on 19 June, 2023
It is officially Men’s Health Month which as research says, it was established back in 1994. As Gagasi FM we are at the forefront to help educate men, and their families about the importance of positive health attitudes and preventive health practices.
We sat down with Sex Indaba’s contributor Dr. N. E Shabalala, who is an Admitting Independent General Practitioner, Medical Lecturer, and, a Private Practice owner. His passion for Medicine stems from a deep-seated love for helping people.
This conversation aims to heighten awareness of preventable health problems for males of all ages, to support men to engage in healthier lifestyle choices, and to encourage the early detection and treatment of diseases like cancer, heart disease, and depression.
During June, men are encouraged to set goals for their health and wellness and begin to create a roadmap for achieving those goals.
In your own words, what would you say is depression, and how is it different from simply feeling sad?
When we are talking about depression, we are talking about a psychological condition. So, for us to define depression, we must understand that we need a diagnosis, there needs to be a formal assessment with a psychologist, and there needs to be an assessment of your health and your strength. Regarding depression, it falls into the DSM 4 DSM 5 criteria, for diagnosing a clinical condition, that has to do with psychology. Feeling sad has to do with mood, it has to do with the daily activities. It usually has to do with, other people, that are around you, when it comes to your mood. So now if you look at the two differences, with depression, you even have psychological symptoms, where now you become withdrawn from society. You don’t want to engage with people in any way, you become a recluse basically, and sometimes you might have suicidal ideation, which might lead you towards attempting suicide, merely because you feel worthless, so you don’t see a life worth living for.
Within the black community, some people aren’t that alert or informed about Depression, what are some warning signs of depression?
For example, how can someone tell if they are depressed? Now when it comes to one telling if they do have depression or not, it has to do with awareness. The majority of the time, people were suffering from depression, and they didn’t know that they are suffering from depression, simply because they don’t have the right information about depression. It’s either that you like at the mirror, there are a lot of things that you can miss. Some of them get seen by their family members, they get seen by their friends, that there is something wrong. Like I said, first you get withdrawn from society, you don’t want to be around anyone, so you become what we call a loner, that’s number one. Number two, you always have moods of being sad, you hardly ever have a smile, and another thing that happens is you might have server headaches, becomes you overthink whenever you have depression. You dwell on things, you can’t deal with stressors, and you also get anxiety attacks, mainly because you can’t handle the situation, while you can’t confront it. Depression even goes as far as, affecting chemicals within the brain, so some people because they have delusions. Delusions are also believing in something which isn’t there, also hallucinations. so, there is a grey area, within justifying someone that has depression, or depression episodes.
As a public figure, and a father, in what way, would you support a friend or loved one who is struggling with mental health-related issues?
The one thing which you touched on was information. Information is so important, it’s also important to be informed when it comes to these kinds of pf conditions. Remember traditionally we thought that these kinds of conditions affect females, which is a general norm when it comes to depression and mental health issues. Whereas a lot of males are going through it. If you look at it, the majority of males who end up killing themselves, have an initial diagnosis of depression. So more than 50% of males are being affected, and they do end up committing suicide because of depression. So, this is a major issue within our society and country it’s not even understood. So, when it comes to support, you need to be able to support a person who has mental health issues, in a way that, you don’t judge them because they always come with a defensive mechanism mode. So, instead of trying to show them that they are maybe depressed, rather support them so that they can realize that they have a mental illness. Because without them accepting, or realizing the situation, it won’t help either of you.
Sexual Performance Anxiety, as a man how can one overcome this issue, especially as a man?
It differs because sexual anxiety has to do with your previous experiences. So, it differs, if you have someone who you are in a committed relationship with, and you love that person, you need to communicate. I need to be able to tell you about my experience, you need to tell me what your past experiences are, that’s where this all starts. In terms of overcoming sexual anxiety, it depends on the cause of the sexual anxiety. So, we look at a lot of relationships, we look at age gaps, we look at same-gender relationships, we look at extrospective relationships. There are a lot, so when it comes to sexual anxiety, it has to do with how comfortable you are with the person you are with, and the chemistry, and attraction between the both of you. We have a serious problem when it comes to us men with sexual anxiety. Most of the time we go through it, but we are in denial. Which is something that can mess up a relationship, including the sexual part of the relationship.
Premature ejaculation is a very serious fear among men. Most men who prematurely ejaculate often suffer from low self-confidence and fear of approaching women. What advice on confidence would you give someone struggling with low self-confidence, especially during sexual activities?
This is a condition whereby, you can only last a minute, whenever you are with a woman. So, this is also a serious issue that men are suffering from it, I have seen quite a lot of it in my practice as well. If I would advise a male, who is suffering from premature ejaculation, the first thing that you need to do as a male, is to get help. Now this is an issue because there are many platforms, which state that they offer help, but they don’t. So, we need to look at a way that increases awareness of these conditions that are affecting men, because they end up affecting families, marriages, relationships, and all of that. Merely because you are not satisfying your partner. We need to stand up, we need to create a platform for men, where they can come, and tell us their issues and then we can successfully help them. This is one thing that I am trying to create, I am trying to create a Men’s Health Clinic under public health, which will offer its services to males. I am trying to create a notion where I tell men to speak up and tell us if they have a problem so that we can see if we can help them because you are not the only one. I am just trying to create a platform where we can have engagement with men, where we can sit down, and see how we can tackle those situations as men.
Which tests and screenings do I need, and why?
As a man, what’s important is your sexual life, how active are you sexually, and whether are you practicing safe sex. Are you using protection, while having sexual intercourse? For a man, a sexually active man, you need to test for HIV every 3 months, once you reach the age of 40, there are things you need to check or test for annually. One of them is Prostatectomy, we check your Prostate to see if you have cancer, or Benign prostatic which is when the Prostate gets swollen. You also need to check for BP, which is high blood pressure, you need to check for diabetes, it also has to do with lifestyle as well, and hypertension. There are more tests, and screening that you must be on the lookout for, example if you have a big belly, you need to check your cholesterol every year, because there is good cholesterol, and there is bad cholesterol. In the end, HIV is the most important check-up, because it doesn’t affect people according to age, it affects people according to exposure.
Tell us more about male menopause.
For lack of a better word, male menopause is not ancient, it’s a new concept. It came about because people were trying to explain was happened if a male doesn’t have a sedulity, or if a male tends to have his sedulity earlier than a normal stage. Male menopause is your testicles they become affected for whatever reason, so now you can’t produce sperm, therefore you can’t produce kids, and you can’t produce hormones. So, if your testicles become affected, for example: by a viral infection onto your testicles, which means you won’t be able to produce sperm or testosterone.
Which types of cancer should concern men the most?
The prostate is the leading Cancer, at the prostate, we have as men, and women don’t have it. So, just like women have a womb, we don’t have a womb. The prostate is a problem because basically what creates as women, the pre-cum as women you get sperm afterward, so what creates the pre-cum is the prostate. The problem also is whenever you are chronic, it doesn’t matter whether you are black or white, you are at risk of having cancer. There is testicular cancer, Penile Cancer which affect us men. So, there are a lot of risks when it comes to the lifestyle that we live as black people when it comes to the risk of cancer, and one of the leading major risks is smoking, alcohol, and drugs.
What advice would you give all the Men this Men’s Health Month?
Speak up, there is nothing wrong about speaking up, and now we do have a platform where we can sit down, and discuss things like challenges, and we can try and figure things out. So, speaking up doesn’t only have to deal with problems, it also has to do with your background, back at home. If you want to be the head of the household, if you want to be the man of the house, you need to be able to have a platform where you can communicate. If we can teach men that it’s okay to speak out, it’s not like you are failing, you can speak out. A lot of men have issues with GBV, Gender Base Violence is because of anger issues, where you as a man have things building up inside, and they are boiling up inside, and you can’t even express yourself, just because you are a man. So, let us do away with those kinds of mentality, and let us just have awareness to carry the awareness, and push it further.
We know, it all can seem too hard. But the good news? Eventually, these actions of eating healthier and exercising, check ups regularly become surprisingly easier and require less conscious motivation because you will feel so much better. Try it, you’ll see.