Known as the silent crisis, depression affects millions of men worldwide. While research has shown that the number of men with a mental health issue is growing at an astonishing rate. When it comes to their health, most men think of their physical health…like enduring a prostate exam. Men may be reluctant to seek support for their mental health or disclose mental health problems to loved ones.
This week, Health Plus Magazine asked psychotherapist, Shakir London to shed some light on some issues affecting men’s mental health.
Why Aren’t Men Getting Diagnosed and Treated for Depression?
For a man to get diagnosed and treated for depression he (or someone close to him) would have to acknowledge that there is a problem, and he would also have to be willing to get help. The challenge for men is in acknowledging and in willingness. Men are often socialised to appear to be unaffected by symptoms associated with depression. We resort to alternative ways of coping such as minimalising symptoms, masking symptoms, and escaping into work activities or substance use. Thus the idea of even having a dialogue expressing a mental/emotional problem interferes with his ability to get help.
Why is depression in men sometimes overlooked or undiagnosed?
We often only think of depression as extreme and prolonged sadness but that isn’t always the underlying symptom. Sometimes its irritability, headaches or other types of pain which can all make it easy to exclude depression as a diagnosis. Knowing the right types of questions to ask and what to look for are very important. In addition, many men have made a habit of downplaying and hiding symptoms of depression. As difficult and destructive as these may be they are often preferable when compared to the stigma of mental illness.
What are the Most Common Symptoms of Depression in Men?
I believe the most common symptoms of depression in men are: prolonged difficulty sleeping; constant lack of appetite; reckless behaviour (eg while driving), noticeable increases in anger or irritability; constant feelings of emptiness, helplessness or hopelessness; loss of zeal for once pleasurable activities (eg sex); increased and/or excessive alcohol use or substance use; difficulty concentrating and social isolation.
What should be focused on to improve mental health among men?
There are several things that can work really well for men. 1. A scenic walk, jog or other exercises can boost serotonin and dopamine in the brain thus elevating mood and overall wellbeing.
2. Finding environments where a man can socialise and develop meaningful interaction are critical to his mental health. Whether through sports, church groups, or the occasional “boy’s lime,” these forums target the negative impact of social isolation.
3. Nutritional deficiencies can be a hindrances to cognitive functioning. Ensuring that one’s diet incorporates food rich in B vitamins and Vitamin D can be instrumental in improving men’s mental health.
4. Evaluating one’s stress level and practicing personal self-care can go a long way in improving mental health of men. I like to use the technique “What can I do? Where can I go? And who can I talk to?” with my clients. Three positive responses for each can ensure that men will always have something that they can apply when stressors become overwhelming.
Things to do for Movember:
Schedule an appointment,
even if you’re not sick
Eat a well-balanced diet
Increase your vitamin D intake
Grow a moustache or beard
Movember encourages men to grow moustaches as a way to raise awareness and funds for men’s health-specifically for prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.
The goal of Movember is to “change” the face of men’s health. It aims to increase early cancer detection, diagnosis and effective treatments, and ultimately reduce the number of preventable deaths.
Movember began in Australia in 2003 to raise awareness for prostate and testicular cancers, according to the Movember Foundation, a nonprofit that raised nearly $21 million in 2013.