Men have grown up with statements like “men don’t cry” and “man up” being drilled down to them whenever they faced difficult situations. The general belief is that men are supposed to be strong, unbreakable, and able to deal with whatever storms life throws at them. Women on the other hand are allowed to cry, express their feelings, vent, or break down while men are treated like superheroes that need to have it all together.
This perpetuates a harmful belief that being a man requires dealing with life curve-balls with stoic manliness. Looking at all this, it is why we find that men dealing with depression struggle a great deal. They feel there are no safe spaces where they are allowed to show their vulnerability and pain.
Society looks at depression as something that affects only women, or at least something men should never deal with. Men struggling with depression are often looked at as being weak, and not able to handle their business, and because of this, most bottle things up and suffer in silence.
This is because our society has not been taught how to be empathetic to a struggling man. Their silence and distancing in times of difficulty can be misunderstood by those close to them. In most cases, they do not know how to respond and how to seek help.
As history shows, a man will deal with depression the same way he saw his father deal with it and so it goes. According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, in a given year, about 8% of American men over the age of thirty exhibit major depressive disorder, and millions more experience chronic low-grade depression.
Understanding depression in men will mean we also have to understand that it can be overt or covert. With overt depression men start exhibiting all the signs and symptoms that are easy to notice, these symptoms may include all or any of the following: sadness, changes in sleeping patterns, changes in eating habits, anger, irritability, inability to focus, only to mention a few. Covert depression is however not so obvious and can be hard to diagnose because it is often masked through drinking, acting out, self-medication, and womanizing.
Signs and symptoms of depression in men.
Although the symptoms and signs of depression in men could be similar to those experienced by women, the behavioral signs might differ. Men work harder to mask depression than women because they have a masculine norm to uphold hence it looks different.
Below are some symptoms and signs of depression in men to look out for in those we love or in ourselves:
- Too little or too much sleep.
- Suicide thoughts or attempts.
- Fatigue and feeling lethargic.
- Taking part in high-risk behaviors.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Physical ailments like headaches, stomach cramps, or back pains.
- Aggressiveness and/or violent behaviors.
- No interest in pleasurable activities.
- A deep-seated feeling of sadness.
- Feeling empty and without purpose.
- Anxious and on edge.
This is by no means an exhaustive list; however, it highlights most of the common signs and symptoms of depression in men.
How to help a loved one.
Initiating a conversation about depression can be difficult. However, if you approach the subject with care, empathy, and understanding. The stigma surrounding depression in men makes it hard for them to own up but if they know you are there for them with no judgment they will eventually reach out when they are ready.
Loving someone going through a mental illness can be hard, so be sure to take care of yourself in the process and also know what your boundaries are in terms of how much you can help.
Knowing that you do not have to have all the answers or act as their therapist will take the weight off. All you are doing is making yourself available whenever they are ready to talk. You can start the conversation by saying, “You seem tired these days. Is there anything wearing you down?”
Being sensitive when handling this situation will require you to be in tune with where they are and how they wish to handle the situation. Sometimes they might not be ready to talk and that’s ok. Sensitivity will mean being able to read sometimes all the no-verbal cues to know how to proceed.
Being sensitive will also mean that you do not perpetuate destructive beliefs about how man ought to behave, be in the moment and work with what you are being given in a non-judgmental way. It is important to be receptive and open-minded, and non-judgmental in our conversations with them. All this is done to ensure that they know you can be their safe space.
Encourage him to seek professional help.
In all your interactions, always try to make reference to them seeking professional help, even when they think their symptoms are not that severe. Going to see a Therapist is taboo for most men but when they know that they will not be judged for it, they might seriously consider it.
As someone who is helping, it is important to have gathered information about available resources or therapists in the area. This is important because those going through depression, though they might have the will to see a professional, their condition prevents them from seeking help, themselves. At certain times sometimes volunteering to drive them to the appointment can go a long way.
It is important to have realistic expectations when helping. The recovery process from depression can be a long journey, filled with its difficulties along the way. Having a realistic view will help you in that you view the person struggling with needed empathy and patience. An open and honest dialogue along the way is important as it lets those struggling know that you are still there, even when it gets tough.
Take references seriously.
Thoughts of suicide could be hidden by jokes or just said in passing. Please take note of these and be sure to discuss them. Suggest that they seek professional help and when possible, check on them regularly. If the situation is urgent, seek help from the police and loved ones – never attempt to help a suicidal person on your own.
This is an underestimated tool for dealing with depression, it is important to move a lot and to be active. It improves your overall health and wellbeing. If possible, lead by example. When someone is going through depression, they lack the motivation to do much in life, including exercising. If you are the support, you might consider signing up for gym membership together or doing exercise together so that you help motivate them in this season of their life.
Encourage social media breaks.
Humans are absorbing information at abnormal rates, and this can hurt the mind. Limiting screen time can help depression.
Encourage balance in work and life.
As the providers, men work long hard hours, ad many times in nature to give their full attention to the tasks at hand. Personal and work-related stuff is received through mobile devices, and it is hard to switch off. It is important to separate the two and mute work-related notifications when at home. Unless necessary don’t take work home.
Offer advice on sticking to a daily routine. This may help make each day feel easier.
As a society, we need to prioritize men’s mental health and start talking and advocating for safe spaces so that our brothers do not struggle on their own. The quality of society will be greatly improved if we make it a point to educate ourselves about depression in men and how we can assist. The conversation is not easily granted but it is very important.
Christian counseling for depression.
If through this article you have identified some symptoms you have or symptoms that a loved one has and would need help, please do not hesitate to contact our receptionist. We have trained therapists who can provide safe and confidential spaces to help you through the journey.
“Overwhelmed”, Courtesy of Nik Shuliahin, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Standing by the Water”, Courtesy of Yoal Dusurmont, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Depressed”, Courtesy of MART PRODUCTION, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Pensive”, Courtesy of Ron Lach, Pexels.com, CC0 License