Depression Is On The Rise In Men, This Is How Women Can Help

While Men’s Health Month came to end this past week, it’s still important to talk about men’s health issues year-round. As a woman, men’s health might not be at the forefront of our minds but it is increasingly essential that women start talking about depression and suicide in men. Already nationally, there has been increased dialogue around mental health but the stigma for men has yet to completely fade.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that since 1999, suicide rates have gone up more than 30% in more than half of the states and is still one of the leading causes of death in men today. Though emotional struggles, self-care and wellness are something women frequently talk about with our loved ones and health care providers, these topics are still avoided by men.  Because men rarely talk about their feelings, rates of depression are likely higher than we know—even in our own social circles. In one way or another, someone you know may be affected by these rates, whether it be a dad, uncle, grandfather, or partner. While mental health concerns are prominent among both sexes, it is important to talk about men’s health since so many men struggle to talk about it themselves. By bringing these statistics out into the open, both men and women can help to start the conversation on mental health.

Why Men Struggle With Their Mental Health

Mental health is essential to any person and keeping it in check is as important as going in for a medical checkup. Though mental health issues are important to respond to, like a broken leg, men can sometimes struggle to seek help or even recognize the symptoms of poor mental health. In a study done by the CDC in 2018, men without known mental health conditions are more likely to die by suicide (84%) than females (16%). This is because men are three times as likely to fail to seek mental health treatment, especially minority men of color such as African American, Latino, and Asian men. Though there can be a difference in treatment-seeking across cultures, the overall gender disparity occurs as a result of men downplaying their symptoms, struggling to speak on their concerns, and following the social norms of masculinity, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. For men, embracing who you are as a person is healthy, but avoiding help due to the expectations of “being tough,” or a “strong man,” can lead to men feeling helpless and unable to express their troubles to others, especially their male counterparts. The reason for this is that men do not want to be judged by their peers, and feel as if their friends or family will think they are weak, or will not understand what they are going through, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

Though we might think that depression is a common problem that is easy for individuals to recognize, men can communicate symptoms of depression in different ways than women, including anger, aggressive tendencies, or a rise in substance abuse. Since these are not the “normal” (recognized) symptoms of depression, both men and their loved ones might fail to recognize the signs, and therefore fail to get help. As a result, symptoms might get worse and result in poorer mental and physical health outcomes; this is why getting an accurate diagnosis and treatment is essential. If signs are not assessed and treatment is not sought, depression can lead to more serious ramifications, including drug and alcohol abuse, self-medicating, or worse – suicide, according to the Mayo Clinic. One way to recognize whether a man suffers from depression is knowing if they have experienced emotional or environmental stressors recently, such as financial insecurity, a big life change, loss of a loved one, work or relationship problems and more. According to Mental Health America, over six million men suffer from (reported) depression each year, and over four times as many men as woman die by suicide in the U.S. These are numbers that we (both men and women) need to change.

How Women and Men Can Help

So, how can these numbers go down? Giving awareness to causes such as Men’s Health Month (June), Minority Health Month (July) and #ShowUsYourBlue for Men’s Health Week (second week in June) can help to create awareness and dialogue for men’s health and mental health. Creating a socially acceptable conversation around men’s health, mental health and suicide is the key to keep men from sitting in silence; it is up to men and women to start the conversation. If you have a loved one who might be suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts, do not be afraid to offer your support to them by listening, being patient and nonjudgmental. Always encourage your dad, uncle, grandfather, son or partner to talk to their health care provider about what they might be experiencing, and let them know that it is okay to seek help. It is not only up to men to fight these numbers but the women in their life to support and encourage them to get help. It is important to let men know that they are not alone in their depression, and that help is available to them.

If you or someone you love is thinking about hurting or killing themselves, get help now. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Lilli Specter is a Summer 2019 intern at Men’s Health Network. She is pursuing a dual bachelor’s degree in Public Health and Psychology at American University.

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