Several months ago, I had the pleasure of volunteering for NAMI-H (National Alliance on Mental Illness in Huntsville) at a health fair event. On the table, I had placed numerous brochures on various topics from crisis services information to support groups to specific mental illness descriptions. One of the brochures was titled, “Men and Depression.” Many people stopped by the table to talk and look over the material. I noticed that the most popular flyer taken, sometimes openly, but more often furtively, was “Men and Depression.” The accompanying statement was to the effect of, “I know someone who needs this.” Although June was National Men’s Health Month, it is still the perfect time to address the mental health side, specifically men and depression. Depression can be hard to talk about. It can be so difficult that many men end up silently struggling for years. Some finally reach out, when they hit rock bottom. Others, sadly, don’t reach out, which is one of the reasons that men account for 3 ½ times the number of suicides as women.
Fighting depression is challenging for everyone. Not only are you fighting the illness, you also fight the stigma attached to it. And for men, the fear of looking weak or too sensitive only adds to the strain. Consequently, men often choose not to seek treatment because of such self-protection mechanisms as anger, shame, guilt, and resentment. Here are some common misperceptions that stand between men and their recovery from depression:
1. Depression will make you a burden to others. You are more likely to place pressure and stress on those who care about you by being unhealthy and refusing to seek treatment. Asking for help does not make you a burden. Most people feel good about helping a loved one; so don’t try to hide what you’re going through. It’s more frustrating when someone needs help but refuses to ask for it.
2. Talking about depression won’t help. Ignoring a problem won’t make it go away. You may think you know all the answers, and that talking won’t help the situation. My experience has been that sometimes issues seem like a huge deal in our minds, but actually verbalizing the problem can decrease some of the anxiety and despair. Talk therapy can be helpful in gaining fresh perspectives and learning new coping skills.
3. Real men don’t ask for help. Sometimes it’s helpful to look at the world from a different viewpoint to determine what might be contributing to the depression. A therapist can assist you in becoming your own problem solver by presenting alternative treatment options. I encourage my male clients to envision tackling depression as a team effort. We are working together to defeat the enemy!
4. Men should be able to control their feelings. Depression is a mood disorder that can make you feel down when there is absolutely no apparent reason. It is difficult to control what we feel, but we can learn to manage how we react. This would include choosing to face our problems before they get out of hand.
5. Depression = Weakness. There is absolutely no correlation between depression and personal weakness. Depression is a serious mental health condition that many men battle every day. We treat physical challenges like diabetes and high blood pressure without question. Men can actually show their strength by working toward building support to get better.
If you or the man in your life might be struggling with depression, there is a website available, specifically designed to help men fight depression. Check out:
This site features tips, information, and recovery stories. It also has a self-check questionnaire to determine if and how much depression may be affecting you.
By: Lisa Phillippart
Licensed Professional Counselor