September 23, 2011

Think you are depressed? Man up!

Smart people who study mental illness say twice as many women suffer from depression than do men.

I find that hard to believe.

Since I began sharing my struggles with depression with close friends, I’m amazed at the number of men who tell me they are probably depressed.

Is the science wrong? Probably not.

Yet could it be that research shows twice as many women experience depression because men are less likely to admit they need help? Probably so.

I’d be interested to see what effect the Great Recession has had on the number of men who suffer from depression. Suicide rates reached an all-time high in 1932, according a Bloomberg article that references an American Journal of Public Health study.

You don’t have to be a history buff to know that was the height of the Great Depression. (That’s a really sad pun). They may have been the most difficult time in American history for men—at least in terms of mental health.

An article published in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution this week said the suicide rate for middle-aged people (ages 45-64) is the highest it has been since 1998.

The only place I’ve ever met men who tried to commit suicide was in a dual diagnosis program for people who suffer from mental illness and/or addiction. The men I know in my personal life that are struggling with what could be diagnosed as depression aren’t suicidal, but they don’t exactly have a sunny outlook, either.

Several male friends of mine have come to me for advice. They’ve asked me if they could be depressed.

Since I’m obviously not a doctor, I tell them to talk to one. But I also urge them not to stop with their primary care doc if they don’t get the help they need. With all due respect to doctors, internists don’t seem to understand mental illness very well. It’s not enough to get on a drug. Therapy is often needed, too.

If your doctor isn’t helping, ask for a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist, or look one up on your own online. That’s what I did.

It’s normal to get the blues. But if you feel hopeless, exhausted, persistently sad and have lost interest in things that once gave you pleasure, it might be worth your time to check out this FACT SHEET on men and depression. It comes from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

So guys, if you think you are depressed, man up! You are not alone.