Dona Rockwell: Men and depression: a silent crisis

Workshop aims to help men understand depression and that help is available.

  • Oct. 23, 2011 10:00 a.m.

“I came down to Vernon and I honestly didn’t know what was wrong with me, my life had deteriorated to the extent where I was isolating, I had stopped answering the phone, I was self medicating with alcohol and marijuana and I was miserable all the time and I didn’t have any idea why.” — Ken Spotswood, journalist, male survivor of addiction and depression.

Depression in men often goes unrecognized, by themselves, colleagues, family and even physicians. Yet some researchers estimate the depression rate among middle-aged men approaches 40 per cent, considerably higher than the rate among women (25 per cent).

Statistically it takes 10 years and three health professionals to properly diagnose depression in men. Often depression is not recognized until men are in their 60s or even 70s.

The symptoms of depression in men are different from the “blue mood” which typifies it in women.

Men typically resist seeking help, and male friends and colleagues don’t ask in-depth questions.

Men don’t equate sexual problems with depression.

Nonetheless, male depression can have devastating effects on the sufferer, as well as his family and colleagues. Depression can lead to a substantial drop in productivity and work performance, divorce, and even suicide.

Symptoms in men include anger, irritability, restlessness, agitation, compulsiveness, fear of failure, blames others, feels suspicious, creates conflict, becomes controlling, may feel shame (past traumas or lack of sexual desire) self-medicates through alcohol.

Because of the denial surrounding male depression it can be more difficult to treat. The best approaches to helping men with depressive symptoms are: recognize the problem — getting him to admit his depression and seek help is the important first step; regular exercise; a healthy diet; spirituality; social supports; clear communication (online source: Dr. Bob Murray, psychologist).

Depression is a serious but treatable medical condition — a brain disease — that can strike anyone, even men.

Whether you’re a company executive, a construction worker, a writer, a police officer, or a student; whether you are rich or poor; surrounded by loved ones or alone; you are not immune to depression. Some factors, however, such as family history, undue stress, the loss of a loved one, or serious illnesses can make you more vulnerable.

If left untreated, depression can lead to personal, family, and financial difficulties. With appropriate diagnosis and treatment, however, most people recover. The darkness disappears; hope for the future returns, and energy and interest in life becomes stronger than ever.

The majority of people with depressive disorders improve when they receive appropriate treatment. The first step to getting treatment is a physical examination by a doctor to rule out other possible causes for the symptoms. Next, the doctor should conduct a diagnostic evaluation for depression or refer the patient to a mental health professional for this evaluation. (Source: Information and excerpts taken and adapted from the National Institute for Mental Health.)

“And pretty soon you start having good thoughts about yourself and that you’re not worthless and you kind of turn your head over your shoulder and look back at the rutted, muddy, dirt road that you just travelled and now you’re on some smooth asphalt and go ‘Wow, what a trip. Still got a ways to go but I wouldn’t want to go down that road again’.” — Patrick McCathern, first Sergeant, U.S. Air force, retired.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be depressed, ask for help. Talk to a doctor and tell them how you are feeling. Call the Crisis Line at 250-545-2339, they will listen and provide you with contact information where to get help.

A presentation on Men and Depression: takes place Wednesday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Vernon Recreation Centre.

Dona Rockwell is RCMP Victims’ Assistance, Vernon Suicide Prevention  Committee member.



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