Mental health disorders, such as depression, are often considered to be a female problem. Women are significantly overrepresented in the general mental health population, which makes it easy to believe that men simply do not suffer from mental health problems. However, the numbers tell a different story. Men are many times more likely to commit suicide than are women but where do the thoughts of suicide come from, and why are the early signs of depression in men often ignored
A significant factor is societal pressure. Men are expected to be tough, strong, and capable. It is often seen as a sign of weakness for a man to seek help. Therefore, men tend to repress feelings of depression as well as signs of other disorders, believing that they need to “tough it out,” and deal with their feelings on their own.
Dealing with depression on their own can lead men to increasingly risky behaviors. Drinking and driving, womanizing, and physical altercations are all signs of depression in men that can stem from untreated mental health issues. This often exacerbates the problem, as the man must then face the consequences of the behavior. As his life deteriorates due to these behaviors, the depression worsens. It becomes a self-replicating cycle, which may go unnoticed by both the sufferer and his doctor.
Friends and family members often become “enablers.” Women tend to confront each other over negative behavior patterns. Men, on the other hand, who may also buy into the societal pressure for men to handle their own problems, may be more reluctant to do anything that they see as interfering or nagging. Often the man’s significant other may make attempts to intervene, but her success may be limited.
Fortunately, things are changing. Men are being diagnosed with disorders from depression to schizophrenia in record numbers. The stigma is being lifted. It is important for doctors to work toward increasing awareness, and to screen their male patients for mental health issues.
It is equally important for men to arm themselves with information. Mental health disorders do not solely affect women, and men need to be aware of the symptoms. It takes a strong man to handle his problems on his own, but an even stronger one admits when he needs help. Annual physical exams are recommended for everyone, and it is a simple matter to review any psychological factors with your doctor at that time. Additionally, the services of a mental health professional can and should be sought at any time that a disorder seems to manifest itself.
Modern psychiatric drugs have far fewer side effects than did those of the past and in some cases a simple pill may be all that is required. At other times, more extensive therapy may be indicated.
While it can be difficult for men who have been raised to keep their issues private to suddenly open up to a stranger, many describe the process as liberating. Learning to communicate with a therapist can have numerous real world benefits, including better communication with one’s partner and co-workers.
A therapist is impartial, fair, and nonjudgmental. Seeking the advice of a therapist can help to bring many issues into focus, and help one to develop the best life he can possibly have. Entering treatment can be intimidating, but it is important to remember that psychological illness is no different than physical illness.
Psychological treatment, like physical treatment, can prevent a minor illness from becoming, quite literally, life-threatening. The advantages far outweigh the initial fear and embarrassment.