Let’s start off with some statistics, shall we?
1 in 10– the number of men who experience daily feelings of depression or anxiety.
1 in 3– the number of those men who took medication to address their depression or anxiety.
1 in 4– the number of men who spoke to a mental health professional.
80%– the percentage who are successfully treated for depression.
almost 2/3– the amount of those struggling with depression who do not receive any treatment.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I have a huge problem with those statistics. If so many people are suffering and treatment is so effective, then why aren’t more people seeking help?
One word: stigma.
Stigma is Killing Men
Though we have come a long way in recent years, there is still a huge stigma against seeking help for one’s mental health. And it’s no secret that it’s much worse for men.
While more than three fourths of adults agree that treatment can help those with mental health concerns, of those who are struggling, only a fourth believe that others are sympathetic and caring toward their needs.
So let’s get this straight: most people agree that treatment can be helpful, but most of those who may be seeking help feel like others either don’t care or treat them unfairly. Wow.
Men are far less likely to seek help than women. As a result, men are FOUR TIMES more likely than women to commit suicide.
Men are constantly hounded by messages that we need to be tough, that showing our emotions (and God forbid, crying) are for women, and that we need to pick ourselves up and push through it.
And it’s not even just mental health we’re talking about but physical health as well. Men are also less likely to see a primary care doctor. There’s a reason men can expect to live 5 years less than women.
One Problem is with Detection
While 9% of men report daily feelings of depression or anxiety, many of them go untreated due to the problem with detection.
Close your eyes for a moment and picture what a depressed person looks like. I’ll wait.
When one thinks about what depression looks like, the image is often of someone who is sad all the time or cries a lot. More often than not, people picture a woman.
She’s sobbing, can’t get out of bed in the morning, isn’t taking care of herself; she may not be eating as much or is tired all the time.
This is the picture that society has painted for us. Just look at the advertisements for antidepressants on TV. When was the last time you saw one that featured a dude? I’m pretty sure I never have.
It is often stated that women experience depression twice as often as men. Just do a quick internet search, and you’ll see it. The truth is that men experience depression differently than women, and the ‘traditional’ view of what depression looks like means men often go untreated.
Men are much more likely to be irritable, complain of being tired, or report physical pain and discomfort. They are also more likely to turn to things like alcohol in order to deal with their depression.
When we ask questions related to symptoms of anger, reckless behavior, and the use of alcohol or other substances, the difference in the rates of depression between men and women disappears.
We shouldn’t let society’s antiquated view of what depression looks like get in the way of men getting help.
What to do if you suspect someone you love is depressed
- Avoid using the word depression. Due to the stigma it carries, it’s very likely that the man you’re trying to talk to about his depression will likely become defensive or shut down. Instead, use terms that are more culturally accepted such as ‘stressed out’ or ‘overly tired.’ This may help him ease into the conversation a little better and open up.
- Let him know that you’ve noticed changes in his behavior without being critical. “I’ve noticed you always get an upset stomach before work.” “You haven’t played basketball in months.”
- If you think he’ll be open to it, offer to accompany him to see his primary care physician. Talking to a medical professional may be a little easier than jumping straight into the office of a mental health professional.
- Encourage him to make a list of his symptoms. This could be in preparation to his first appointment. It’s really easy for us as men to clam up when talking to professionals, so having a list can serve as a concrete reminder of our concerns.
- Do not ignore any comments he makes about suicide. If he is making statements that indicate he is thinking about suicide, you can contact your local crisis hotline, which if you’re in the Dallas area is 1-866-260-8000. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
What to do if you suspect you may be struggling with depression
1. Talk to someone.
The worst thing you can do if you think you may be struggling with depression is suffering in silence. Talk to your partner, your pastor, your doctor. Talk to your parents, your children, your friends. Find someone you trust and talk.
I know that the stigma is there. I know that it can be hard to find someone, anyone to open up to and talk about your feelings. But talk! Your life may depend on it.
If there is no one in your life that you feel comfortable talking to, call a hotline. You can even remain anonymous.
Help is available. Healing is possible.
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