November is Men’s Health Awareness Month, when folks are reminded of, and can openly discuss men’s health issues. Mental health issues, including depression, are often unrecognized and, unfortunately, seldom discussed with men.
The phrases "take it like a man," "man up," and "be a man" imply staying quiet, pulling one’s self up by the bootstraps, and moving forward. Unfortunately, the message of staying quiet is dangerous when it applies to mental health.
According to various surveys, there are half as many reported cases of depression in men compared to women; however, this rate is likely under-reported. In 2014, the Centre for Suicide Prevention reported that there were 3728 completed suicides in Canada, and 2781 of these suicides were male.
Moreover, far fewer men seek treatment or support for depression, including health care providers, friends or family, when compared to women.
A few of the barriers to help-seeking behaviours in men include: stigma related to depression and help-seeking (i.e., "If I have depression, it means that there is something really wrong with me", "If I seek out help, it means that I am weak"), beliefs regarding gender-roles ("A real man would solve this on his own"), and a lack of priority and awareness related to mental health issues. And, instead of talking about stress or trying to seek help for their depression, men are at greater risk to mask their stress and deal with depression through avoidance and withdrawal, or through harmful behaviours and actions, such as violence, drinking, drugs, gambling, reckless activities and, as highlighted earlier, suicide (Centre for Suicide Prevention, 2014).
As identified in his book, I Don’t Want To Talk About It; author Terence Real identifies that biological, psychological, and social factors all play a part in men’s depressive symptomology, as do lifestyle choices, relationships, and coping skills (Real, 1997).
Stressful life events or anything that makes one feel helpless, profoundly sad, or overwhelmed by stress can also trigger depression in men, including:
- Overwhelming stress at work, school, or home
- Marital or relationship problems
- Not reaching important goals
- Losing or changing a job; embarking on military service
- Constant money problems
- Health problems such as chronic illness, injury, disability
- Recently quitting smoking
- Death of a loved one
- Family responsibilities such as caring for children, spouse, or aging parents
- Retirement; loss of independence
How to recognize depression in men:
- If you identify with several of the following, you (or a loved one) may be suffering from depression:
- you feel hopeless and helpless
- you’ve lost interest in friends, activities, and things you used to enjoy
- you’re much more irritable, short-tempered, or aggressive than usual
- you’re consuming more alcohol, engaging in reckless behavior, or using TV, sports, and sex to self-medicate
- you feel restless and agitated
- your sleep and appetite has changed
- you can’t concentrate, or your productivity at work has declined
- you can’t control your negative thoughts
Physical pain is an additional symptom of depression often overlooked in men, including a backache, frequent headaches, sleep problems, sexual dysfunction, or digestive disorders that often do not respond to normal treatment (Men and Depression, 2016).
What to do if you are depressed:
1) Seek social support to reduce stress and feel happier. Close relationships are vital to helping you get through difficult times and being around other people helps with managing mood. This may include: reaching out to family and friends, participating in social activities, joining a support group for depression.
2) Exercise for greater mental and physical health. When you’re depressed, just getting out of bed can seem like a daunting task, let alone exercising. But regular exercise is extremely effective in managing the symptoms of depression in men.
3) Eat a healthy diet to improve how you feel. What you eat has a direct impact on the way you feel. Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your mood, such as caffeine, alcohol or comfort foods such as French fries, or sugary snacks.
4) Get enough sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, your depression symptoms can be worse. Sleep deprivation exacerbates anger, irritability, and moodiness. Aim for somewhere between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
5) Reduce stress. Too much stress worsens depression. A daily relaxation practice can help relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, and boost feelings of well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.
6) Seek out professional help. Sometimes, support from family and friends and positive lifestyle changes aren’t enough, and help from a mental health professional is needed. Treatments for depression include;
- Therapy - Talk therapies are used to help the person find ways to manage mood and learn coping skills to manage everyday stressors.
- Medication - Antidepressant medication may help relieve symptoms of depression.
Local Community Supports:
If you are experiencing a psychosocial or mental health crisis, call the following numbers for assistance: OVER THE AGE OF 18: 1-888-379-7699 or UNDER THE AGE OF 18: 1-866-403-5459.
To access mental health services in your area, call 1-866-403-5459 (under the age of 18) or 1-855-222-6011 to be connected with the service provider nearest you.
Contact information for services available in your area is also available on the Prairie Mountain Health website.
Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba 1-204-725-1232
Centre for Suicide Prevention. (2014, October). Men and suicide: A high-risk population. Retrieved from Men-and-Suicide-2014.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017, May 17). Male Depression: Understanding the Issue. Retrieved from male-depression article.
National Institute of Mental Health (2016).Men and depression. Retrieved from men and depression article.
Real, Terrence. (1997). I Don’t Want To Talk About It. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.