Consider this quote from Men’s Health magazine about male depression:
The bro culture that dictates limited ways of interacting: fist bumping, shoulder punching, sports banter, and shrinking from talk that gets too real is hurting men. Being too sensitive with other males invites talk of “manning up”, or worse, causes others to shrink away from you as if you have a raging contagious case of the flu.
Would you agree that your mental health is inseparable from your physical health? That your mind and body cannot be divided? If so, why are there so many men stigmatized if they even breathe a hint of trouble on the mental health front?
Did you know that 9% of men (that’s 6 million!) have depression at any given moment? And another 3 million struggle with anxiety? For men, suicide is the 7th leading cause of death, and it rises to number 2 according to Men’s Health Magazine when you take a hard look at the numbers for males between the ages of 10-39. That is a staggering statistic for male depression.
The cultural constraints that stifle men from freely expressing their concerns, mandating they ‘stuff it’, need to stop. The body will tell the story, causing aches, pains, HBP and tension headaches. One common way sadness comes out for men is in anger—the only safe negative emotion to display that our culture allows for males. However, when you stuff and blow, no one wins. Some fields of employment are worse than others for this mentality. Police work, firefighting, the military, and construction (the worst!) maintain a culture of stoicism and silence for mental anguish and personal problems. These work cultures most often resort to labeling and diminishing male depression vs seeking solutions and help for it.
How Can You Prevent Male Depression?
First you can take a page from women’s friendships. Cultivate a few close friends. Plan intentional time to do things together. Sometimes you meet other potential friends through social events with your partner. For men, doing activities together often works the best, whether they are sports related, project oriented (such as helping to build a playground for kids), exploring nature, or gaming. A word of caution on the gaming front. Loneliness often leads to gaming addiction as both a distraction and a coping mechanism. Continually done alone, you do not get the face to face time that is so important. But have a few friends over to enjoy this activity together and that is a different matter. The you can enjoy each others’ reactions, yelps, successes and defeats in a supportive camaraderie.
A second way when seeking out new friendships is to join groups that do something you like or would like to try. This may require a bit of courage and the willingness to step out. MeetUp, Facebook, your local university, and local charities can be good places to look for ideas. The danger is that you dismiss it too soon before giving a new activity a real try. Getting yourself on a planning committee is a way within organizations to work together with others and get to know them better.
Finally I want to remind you men that you do not have to know how to ‘fix’ every situation right now. It’s okay to not know, or to be sad or angry. This is yet another cultural expectation that men are supposed to take care of things, take charge, and have solutions—even to their emotional pain. And do it silently please. Not!
If you need a safe place to take any of this out, please call or contact me. I don’t have all the solutions either, but I do know that having someone listen and reflect back to you leads to new ways of looking at issues. New ways of seeing expands your options for the way forward.
Resource: Men’s Health Magazine