Clinical Depression is not pretty. It’s a serious medical condition that can affect your peace of mind, disrupt your interpersonal relationships, negatively affect your sexual desire as well as interfere with your overall everyday life. Medical illnesses such as stroke or cancer can bring on clinical depression. Unfortunate life events such as a death of a spouse, divorce, homelessness, loss of a job can bring on a significant event of depression.
For a long time clinical depression was consider a woman’s disease, but in recent years that faulty thinking has fallen to the wayside. Many men suffer from depression, often ignoring the symptoms and refusing treatment. Suffering in silence to avoid being stigmatized or label weak. When men find the courage to seek help, their symptoms are often severe to the point of entertaining suicide. A young man told me the other day, he felt “broken inside”, “hopeless and alone” with “nothing left to give'” and although he had some positives in his life such as a good paying job and a supportive wife and family, he still felt alone and overwhelmed by life’s pressures and his ability to cope with it all.
When clinical depression occurs in men, it may be masked by unhealthy coping behavior such as excessive drinking and drug use, irritability or inappropriate anger, violent or abusive behavior or risky behavior like reckless driving. Men traditionally do not seek medical care despite their medical symptoms. They often ignore warning signs holding on to the false belief their symptoms will simply just go away. The CDC reports that men in the U.S. are three to four times more likely than women to successfully commit suicide after a long bout with depression. In simple terms, 75% to 80% of all people who successfully commit suicide by lethal violent means here in the U.S. are men. That is not only a staggering statistic but very disturbing indeed, particularly when men often use more violent means to kill themselves such as using a gun or hanging.
Society’s cultural norms and pressures often stand in the way of men not only accepting their depression but seeking help as well. Men received daily messages from society that they must be successful and strong. They must rein in their emotions no matter how they are feeling and stay in control. What a precarious burden to carry? And for depressed men it can be so overwhelming to the point they are unable to think through and solve simple problems which affects their daily functioning and interpersonal relationships.
If you are living with a husband, significant other, brother, father, friend and so forth it’s important to be aware of the early warning signs of men suffering from depression. Persistent sadness and avoidance of talking about what’s bothering him. Self isolating behavior such as staying at home or closed off in a room refusing to interact with family or friends, Increased episodes of irritability with unprovoked angry outbursts toward others. Complaints of feeling anxious, not being able to focus and concentrate, brain fog, feeling physically exhausted as well as insomnia, not being able to stay asleep or go back to sleep once awake. Excessive use of alcohol and street drugs. Loss of interest in sexual desire and activities or hobbies previously enjoyed.
If you observe any of these symptoms in your male loved ones encouraged him to seek help through his primary medical provider who will be more than willing to refer him to a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or licensed clinical social worker or both to address his depression. If suicidal thoughts are openly expressed, it is strongly encouraged the man seeks help as soon as possible without delay. You or he can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to reach a trained mental health professional. These professionals are available 24/7 to give direction and assist with getting emergency treatment including calling 911 especially if the man’s life is at immediate risk.
Depression, even if severe can improve over time with the treatment of medications coupled with supportive therapy. So tell your male loved ones who silently suffer from depression, help is there. Many effective treatments are available so there is no need to try to “tough it out.” Remember, the decision to “tough it out” can lead to devastating consequences in the long run. Anita Dixon-Thomas is a licensed clinical social worker specializing in emergency mental health services in the City of Atlanta.