Why depressed men don’t deal with depression

by Martin

in A Depression Blog, Depression in Men

depressed men - depressed man of middle years

Having recently posted about the signs of depression in men, it set me thinking about my own approach to dealing with depression and the approach of other depressed men I know and have known.

In the signs of depression post I write about the fact that many men fail to seek help for their depression for fear of being seen as weak or vulnerable. Although it’s right to say that I was reluctant for a very long time to get help for my depression, I don’t think my own reasons were specifically connected to being perceived as weak – I’d always assumed everybody thought I was weak, in any case.

Instead, as somebody whose self-image was tied up not with strength but more with reason and rationaIity, my fear was not about seeking help, but about being diagnosed as depressed and thus, as I saw it, branded as mentally ill or mentally deficient in some way.

I suppose, If you think about it, in essence these fears have the same root – the idea that something you consider to be central to your persona will be undermined if the problem comes out into the open.

Whilst it is difficult for those of us who deal with this as older men, we do at least tend to have a reservoir of resources to draw on, such as experience of life’s ups and downs and at least some degree of emotional maturity.

But think about how much harder this is for young depressed men; those in their late teens or early twenties.

My recollection of that time is one of endless confusion about who I was and what I was supposed to be. It involved lots of ‘trying to fit in’ with one group or another, lots of doubts about whether I was ‘in’ or ‘out’ and lots of bravado in the face of everything. And I had a relatively stable background and upbringing – many don’t.

So, consider the courage required of a young man in that age group if he is to face up to feelings of depression, admit his problem and come out and seek help for it.

A 1999 study by the Samaritans, a national UK helpline service, on the attitudes of young men starkly highlighted the problem. It found that as a consequence of the need to be seen to be tough, a high proportion of young men are more likely to resort to violence than ask for help, whilst more than one third of those studied stated that they would ‘smash something up’ instead of talk about the way they felt.

So what is the answer to all of this? How can depressed men be made to see the value of dealing with their depression?

Initiatives such as the recent Australian “Soften the fck up” campaign represent one way of trying to get the message out, to young men especially, that a machismo attitude can have disastrous consequences where depression is concerned.

How else can we turn around the damaging attitudes of depressed men towards depression? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Resources

Samaritans (1999) Young Men Speak Out.

Song of the Post


I reckon that Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come” (the harder they fall) may have something to say to those reluctant males out there. So, I’m nominating it as song of the post.



About the Author

Father, husband, writer and website publisher, discontented in his day-job, he writes here about depression - his own and in general. You can follow Too Depressed on Twitter. Please share the content on this site with all your friends, followers and contacts using the buttons above.

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Last revised on December 7, 2012

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda Esposito ( July 12, 2011 at 1:37 am

Hi Martin–

This is a wonderful site you have here. I love the narrowed niche, and think a lot of men need to know about this wonderful resource.

As a psychotherapist I’ve witnessed a fair share of men delaying counseling for depression until their home, work, and relationship issues are in a dire state. If we as a society recognize that depression is a state that the vast majority of us pass through at some point(s) is our lives, as opposed to a label that we cannot peel off, then we’ll be one step closer to reducing the stigma.

We need more male psychotherapists. The NY Times published an article about the dearth of males in the helping professions and the negative effects on males’ mental well-being.

Keep up the good work–I’ll definitely refer this site to the men in my practice. I only wish it wasn’t such a small number :(.
Linda Esposito ( recently posted..Monday Morning Mental Health Maintenance Tip #14My Profile

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Martin July 12, 2011 at 6:55 am

Hi Linda
Thanks for your comments – and compliments – much appreciated.

You’re right about changing our perception of depression. That was always my problem, the belief that once I admitted my depression I’d be forever a depressive.

I’ve even been thinking of training as a psychotherapist myself. There are a few obstacles but perhaps I shouldn’t let it go.

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FSODepression September 19, 2011 at 3:27 am

This article is really interesting as as soon as I read it I thought “WHAT? I’m a man and I dealt with depression!” ha.

But actually, thinking back on a lot of my experiences, it was difficult because of my gender.

I think another point you could make about it, is that on average, men are less spiritual than women and tend to deny their feelings on that basis.

BUT also, homosexual men deal with depression differently as well. Some are more in touch with their feelings and able to admit to it and seek help, where as others find it EVEN harder because they already feel like they are “outsiders”

I was depressed in my late teens so I can relate to what you said about it being tougher for young men.

I think one of the problems for me wasn’t that I thought I needed to be ‘tough’ but that others treated me like I should be tough.

I remember trying to speak to my mum about my depression and her reply was “Don’t be stupid, what have you got to be depressed about?”. Of course I felt alienated and like I SHOULDN’T talk about these things to others.

But I think the way forward for any young depressed man, is to find some one you can talk to and trust. Because people are understanding and willing to help if you let them. Counselling is well worth it and helped me tremendously. I used to get aggressive because I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions.

I have some info about signs of depression in men on my website and a lot more on depression if you want to take a look.

Thank you for this interesting article!

Andrew.
FSODepression recently posted..Beating Depression – Be Inspired!My Profile

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