Men and Depression: Overcoming the Stigma
Terry Bradshaw. Jim Carrey. Billy Joel. Winston Churchill. Abraham Lincoln. In addition to being famous and successful, these men—and many others—share another important characteristic: they all suffered from depression.
About six million men in the United States suffer from depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. While the stigma of mental health disorders is fading, some men are still reluctant to talk about, or seek help for, depression. That's unfortunate, since treatment is generally very effective.
Rather than discussing how they feel, men are more likely to express depression in other ways, such as fatigue, irritability, loss of interest in work and activities, and sleep disturbances. Furthermore, men may turn to alcohol or drugs, throw themselves into work, or engage in reckless behaviors rather than asking for help. Substance abuse can mask depression and make it harder to diagnose mental health experts are not sure if substance abuse is simply a symptom of depression, or a concurrent problem.
Left Untreated, Depression is Dangerous
For men, depression and suicide often go hand in hand. Singer Billy Joel tried to commit suicide by drinking furniture polish. Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are four times more likely to die by suicide. We tend to think that mostly younger men commit suicide; however, older white men suffer the highest suicide rates. Suicide is still a concern in young men, however. In 2002, suicide was the third leading cause of death in men 15 to 24.
Overcoming the Stigma of Depression
A stigma is a negative judgment based on a personal trait. In the past, mental illness carried the stigma that it was a personal weakness. We now know that depression is a medical condition that physicians can treat like any other illness. However, the stigma—or the perception of a stigma—still exists for some men, which discourages them from seeking treatment according to The National Institute of Mental Health's aggressive awareness campaign, Real Men. Furthermore, the public has become more accepting of the use of anti-depressants.
If you suffer from depression, relief is possible. Don't let your perception of a negative stigma prevent you from seeking treatment. Come to terms with your illness, and seek support from people you trust. Don't equate your personal self with mental illness.
You can help the depressed man in your life by encouraging him get to see a physician for evaluation and treatment and by offering your unconditional support.
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