Depression in men typically manifests more subtly than in women. I can speak from personal experience, having experienced depression myself.
Conditioned not to share their emotions, men act out when they are depressed. In men, depression commonly manifests as aggression, irritability, or anger. Men may also have difficulty sleeping or may have problems with sexual desire and performance. Lastly, men may experience anhedonia, which is the inability to get pleasure from activities one normally finds pleasurable.
When I realized I was struggling with depression, I did not know where to go for help. It can be difficult for men to discuss their emotions openly; years of conditioning and expectations have created a situation in which many men feel as though they cannot express what they truly feel. To do so would, in the minds of many, make men seem weak or “unmasculine”. Yet, any admission of vulnerability takes real strength. To defy society’s expectations takes a certain degree of mettle.
Male depression is a serious social issue that often does not receive the attention it merits; globally, men die by suicide at significantly higher rates than women. Care consultation rates are lower for men than for women. When compared to women, men are less likely to deal with their negative emotions in a healthy way.
How do we change this system of cultural norms?
The first step is to simply oppose them; to come forward with your problems and to admit that you are struggling takes courage. Humans are social animals; to defy what is culturally normal is to risk social death but culture is manmade, and it can be changed. In helping yourself, you are being an agent of that change. By adopting a different mindset and practicing compassion, you can help to unmake the system of norms and expectations that worsens male depression.
I go to counselling and my therapist has helped me find ways to manage my depression. While I have not fully recovered, I have nonetheless experienced real improvements in my life.
Blog post by Kenneth Milner, Volunteer