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Suffering in Silence: Men need support, too

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 There is a silent crisis affecting millions of men worldwide.  While health articles and websites may be visibly dedicated to men’s physical health, exercise, and nutrition, a specific stigma surrounding men and their mental health has caused men from all walks of life and ages to suffer in silence.

It is estimated that by 2030 depressive disorders will be the primary cause of illness and premature death globally.  In the U.S. alone, about 6 million men are suffering from depression or anxiety.  Men’s suicides are four times higher than those of women. Why? Men are more likely to associate their feelings of fatigue, sleep disturbances, and loss of interest in their work or hobbies as part of the ordinary, mundane side effects of life, rather than as the hallmark symptoms of depression.

It is up to all of us, regardless of gender, to embrace the fact that mental wellness is for everyone and to encourage men to find the outlets, help, and support they need.

The lack of resources and targeted intervention programs designed for men, stigmas, and even the workplace environment poses a challenge for men to find the support they need.  All men, from the farm to Silicon Valley, are equally as likely to experience burnout and depression.  Long work hours, job demands, and job security are taking its toll on men.  A study found that male dominated industries (classified as an environment where 70% of workers are men) have uniquely high rates of depression.  Male machinists in the Netherlands, manufacturing workers in Japan, manual workers in France, farmers in Norway and the UK, and construction workers in the USA have higher lifetime reports of significant emotional and psychiatric distress.

Statistically, men experience the symptoms of depression differently than women. Depression may manifest as anger in some men.  The standard criteria for a diagnosis of male depression is being re-thought, as some researchers believe that the diagnostic tests are failing to understand how depression affects men because it is so different than the presentation found in women.  This misunderstanding is leaving those men who have sought treatment with an incomplete treatment plan at best—and at its worst, it prevents men from feeling as though there is reliable help there for them.

In addition to a poor medical understanding of depression in men, men are less likely to seek guidance related to their mental health because of an archetypal perception that men should not be viewed as “weak”.  Men’s roles have changed and evolved over time, but a lingering sense of duty, judgement, and identity may still throw a large shadow over the fog of mental health for many men.

Life can be stressful for everyone these days and the quick pace of the technological world we live causes depressive symptoms to surface earlier and earlier.  Adolescent boys suffering from depression may have suicide rates as high as 7% before they reach adulthood, as well as an increased chance of developing a substance abuse disorder.  Men are generally more likely to encounter a substance abuse disorder related to a lack of mental wellness treatment.  As men age, they may experience depression from a decrease in self-esteem as they get older and can no longer perform the same activities or jobs they once did.

From the young to the elderly, all men need to feel validated and be given the tools to be as healthy as they can be mentally.  With the awareness, education, and involvement of family, together we can prevent the suffering of those around us as we check-in with ourselves and the men in our lives, this week most especially.

If you would like more information about depression, please visit:
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/men-and-depression/index.shtml

Men’s Health Network Resources:

http://www.menshealthnetwork.org/

http://www.menshealthresourcecenter.com/mental-health-well-being/

References

  1. Roche, Ann M et al. “Men, Work, and Mental Health: A Systematic Review of Depression in Male-dominated Industries and Occupations.” Safety and health at work vol. 7,4 (2016): 268-283. doi:10.1016/j.shaw.2016.04.005

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