The Silent "D" in Men - Depression Is Not Gender Biased

At school, no one knows him
He doesn't have an identity
Alone eating lunch
Man, it feels like infinity
But if they see him cry, that shit would be worse than anything
So, he starts fights, and hides it with masculinity

-      Ryan Caraveo “Corner of the World” 

 

“Don’t cry,” “Be tough,” “Man up,” “Don’t be a… “ well you know how it goes. Men are expected to be tough, to hide their feelings and pretend like everything is ok – even when it is not. The song, “Corner of the World” by Ryan Caraveo describes the façade that men create to survive in a world where not being ok is never ok. A façade that consists of pretending to feel emotions,joking about suicide, depression and rejection, and/or hiding pain in alcohol and drugs when all the while they are being crushed by feelings of hopelessness and emptiness. Most men in our society have no safe place to express how they feel and often don’t even realize, as they become more and more withdrawn, that they are suffering from a treatable illness. 

A common misconception is that females are more likely to suffer from depression than males. Recent studies have found that men and women suffer from depression at the same rate but that men are less likely to report depression, and their symptoms present differently from women’s.1  Reaching through the façade and helping men find help for depression can be very difficult. The very symptoms that signal depression in men – having multiple sexual partners, heavy or binge drinking, engaging in reckless behavior – are behaviors that are celebrated and encouraged by their peers. While not all men that engage in these behaviors are depressed, when these behaviors are coupled with feelings of hopelessness, sadness, guilt and/or shame men can find themselves in a spiral of depression that can lead to thoughts of suicide. 

Statistics on rates of suicide in men are also under reported, but it is estimated that the suicide rate among males is nearly four times higher than females, even though females report more thoughts of self-harm and suicidal ideation.2Men also seek out help for mental health issues at a much lower rate than women, which can contribute to the higher rate of male suicide. As awareness of this gender gap in treatment has grown more and more, men are starting to share their stories of depression, suicidal ideation, and recovery. Resources like Headsupguys.org, which provides education, stories of recovery, and practical tips and tools geared specifically toward men, have started to bring down the stigma barriers that keep men from seeking help for depression. The stories of recovery and hope that are documented on Headsupguys.org provide a low risk way for men to engage in understanding their depression and finding common ground with other men from all walks of life who are fighting the same fight. As men are allowed to normalize their feelings of depression and realize that they are not alone, they are much more likely to reach out for help and support. 

Depression is an illness and, just like many other illnesses, there are proven protocols for treatment and recovery. The best first step is to meet with a doctor. A doctor can evaluate symptoms and make recommendations for your best course of treatment. Talk therapy, support groups and medication can all be a part of recovery but each person’s treatment should be focused on the individual circumstances. Building a support system is also essential to treating depression. Combating depression takes a team of people. A doctor, a therapist, friends and family – all help to combat the negative self-talk that is a major symptom of depression. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for depression but taking the first steps – admitting the struggle and reaching out for help – will start a process that can completely change a person’s perspective on life.  Reach out. Stop the stigma. 

Written By:

Laura Harrison, M.A., LPC-Intern
Supervised by Ly Tran, LPC-S

Suicide Prevention Lifeline  1-800-273-8255

Lifeline Crisis Chat https://www.contact-usa.org/chat.html

Heads Up Guys https://headsupguys.org/

1 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/1733742

2 https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml

 

Photo by L U C R E A T I V E on Unsplash