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Lindsay

Men And The Stigma Of Mental Illness: Depression And Gender


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Six million men in the United States have at least one episode of major depression a year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. But traditional masculine norms in our culture contravene symptoms of major depression.

These norms, as defined by clinical psychologist, Dr. Ronald F. Levant, pressure a man to:

  1. 1) restrict emotions
  2. 2) avoid being feminine
  3. 3) focus on toughness and aggression
  4. 4) be self-reliant
  5. 5) make achievement the top priority

Major depression is a biological, medical illness with physical, cognitive and mental symptoms. Despite clear scientific evidence of depression’s medical and biological links, it remains stigmatized as a sign of weakness or low character.

Acceptance of depression as a verifiable and treatable illness is further complicated by gender bias, leading it to be falsely categorized as a “woman’s” illness. For depressed men, this bias decreases their chances of being properly diagnosed and treated.

In American male culture, most men don’t have the language to express the defeat, powerlessness and anxiety of depression while maintaining their masculine identity. Less likely to express their emotions for fear appearing “weak” or “effiminate,” depressed men more often present as angry or irritable.

Fewer men than women express feelings of sadness or seek professional help, so the actual number of men with depression may be underestimated. Symptoms of depression are the same in both genders: persistent sadness, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, loss off interest or sense of pleasure in activities, difficulty sleeping, among many others.

However, depressed men more often suppress these feelings and delay or avoid seeking help by engaging in risk-taking behaviors— fast cars, excessive drinking, promiscuous sex— coping mechanisms that provide limited relief and often end in suicide.

Leading the world in the destigmatization of mental illness is Canada, with a national television campaign, “Let’s Talk.” In this segment, the stereotypical male response to mental illness — machismo — is juxtaposed against compassion and emotional intelligence.

In the same vein, former Surgeon General of the United States Richard Carmona said this in an article on men and depression on the NAMI site. ”Today we’re saying to men, it’s okay to talk to someone about what you’re thinking, or how you’re feeling, or if you’re hurting. We are attacking the stigma that tough guys can’t seek help. They can and they should.”
This Article

  •    Improved My Health
  •     Changed My Life
  •     Saved My Life

If a man in your life is struggling with feelings of hopelessness, visit the Real Men. Real Depression. page at NAMI. There you can learn more, find support, and read the stories of other men who have had the courage to seek help.

 

Sources:

Men and the Stigma of Mental Illness. goodmenproject.com. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/men-and-thestigma-of-mental-illness-dg

Suicide Facts and Figures. afsp.org. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
https://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures

Depression and Men Fact Sheet. nami.org. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
http://www2.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Mental_Illnesses/Depression/...

Male Gender Role. psychologyofmen.com. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
http://www.psychologyofmen.org/male-gender-role

Men and Depression. nimh.hih.gov. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/men-and-depression/inde...

 

Reviewed June 12, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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Excellent resources, thank you. Male depression has been an unfolding disaster for years, leading to alcoholism, sex addiction, violence... so on. I know, I did it all. Mostly because I thought I was worthless and job and relationship failures told me so. A vicious cycle.

 

I do see more guys at my therapist and psychiatrist's office than I used to, so although I do not wish depression on anyone, I am glad to see men getting help.

 

Any man reading this... getting help was the best thing I ever did. And no one who really cares about me thinks less of me. Some have told me they have depression as well.

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Thanks for the post and links it is tough sometimes for men not only to admidt thier depression but also seek for help but times are changing 

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Thanks for this post.

It's spot on.

Although I am able to admit to my parents and doctor my feelings of depression, I'm jealous of my female friends on facebook who have the courage to post about their experiences there.

I often would like to do so myself, but won't due to fear of being stigmatized. I feel that half of them won't understand, and the other half will think I'm weak. Think less of me, that's for sure.

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Yes - thanks!

 

I carry pictures on my smart phone with motivational quotes about both depression and diet/exercise, and everything seems to be slanted toward women.  Especially the depression thing... it's all about women and the younger males and females who tend to cut as a symptom of their MI - virtually nothing about the 30+ male.

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I have said it before and I will say it again - until society eliminates the stigma against mental illness in men, especially as it relates to the workplace, men will not seek the help they need. To admit to having a mental illness is tantamount to saying goodbye to one's career. If he isn't fired outright, his chances of promotion and advancement are virtually eliminated. In my case, I was a local government employee and had to hide my depression for years in order to keep my job. No citizen wants a mentally ill person working for them in government regardless of how much they say to the contrary. To admit that you are suffering from depression, or any other mental problem if you are a man, is to open yourself up to unemployment and a very bleak future.

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My whole life I've been ashamed to admit I face anxiety and depression.  Very few people in my life realize the extend of what I go through.  Although I know that if I had to courage to open up to more people about it, I'd probably get a more compassionate response then I'd expect.  However, it's still very hard to open about it to even the closest people in my life.

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I often wondered why I felt like a stranger in a strange land for most of my life.  It wasn't until my wife wanted a divorce twenty five years ago did I finally act.  After seeing a psychiatrist and taking the recommended meds my life turned more positive.  Be good to yourself and get help, it is not our fault, these are the cards dealt to us.  There is no shame, or reason not to get help and of course you do not have to share with anyone what your going through and you don't have to explain yourself.  We have a disorder that can be controlled do not let stigma hold you back from a better life.

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There is definitely a stigma about depression, not only for men, but also for women.

 

I have lost many friends and even my biological family due to the fact they just don't understand.  I don't tell anyone I'm depressed because many feel depression is just another word for a cop out.  I used to be a very social guy.  But depression became a turning point where my behavior and persona totally changed.  I guess people couldn't make the distinction from who I used to be, and the behaviors I display now.  Pretty non-social, somewhat isolated, and afraid to tell anyone the real truth.  Many took it personally.  And many made vicious attacks on me telling me i needed to go to Rehab and worse.  Including my sister who has made my life a living Hell for many years.  As such, for survival I cut these people out of my life.  If these people would be willing to try to understand the underlying cause of my change of behavior, maybe they would give support.  I am a man and yes, I feel I am a victim to a stigma about depression.

 

My mom was in a terrible depression for five years I think.  I was in high school, and then college during her illness. She was a very social and popular woman involved in many volunteer activities, clubs, and generally loved people and they loved her.  Until she got depressed.  And only one friend would come over to see her.   She was bedridden most of the time, sleeping, taking very heavy medications.  She cried a lot, and I felt terribly sorry for her but didn't know what to do, but to tell her I loved her.  My dad and sister turned against her.  My dad sent her to an institution where they gave shock therapy.  She was there for about a year I think, then transferred to a University Hospital Mental In-Patient facility for three years. My point is she was abandoned by her friends, my sister, and my dad almost divorced her.  None of them understood and thought she was weak.  I never did.  Fortunately she came out it and returned to a fairly normal life.

 

I think I inherited my depression from her, and I don't of course blame her, it is genetics.  But I will tell you I suffer from a chronic disease which carries a heavy stigma, so coupled with depression, I'm pretty much screwed.  I have only myself to depend on along with my docs, therapist, and a couple of good friends.  But everyone else bailed.

 

This is my story. Perhaps it will help others.

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This post is great, thanks! I was told to "man up" today. Didn't quite no how to respond to that one.

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Six million men in the United States have at least one episode of major depression a year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. But traditional masculine norms in our culture contravene symptoms of major depression.

These norms, as defined by clinical psychologist, Dr. Ronald F. Levant, pressure a man to:

  1. 1) restrict emotions
  2. 2) avoid being feminine
  3. 3) focus on toughness and aggression
  4. 4) be self-reliant
  5. 5) make achievement the top priority

Major depression is a biological, medical illness with physical, cognitive and mental symptoms. Despite clear scientific evidence of depression’s medical and biological links, it remains stigmatized as a sign of weakness or low character.

Acceptance of depression as a verifiable and treatable illness is further complicated by gender bias, leading it to be falsely categorized as a “woman’s” illness. For depressed men, this bias decreases their chances of being properly diagnosed and treated.

In American male culture, most men don’t have the language to express the defeat, powerlessness and anxiety of depression while maintaining their masculine identity. Less likely to express their emotions for fear appearing “weak” or “effiminate,” depressed men more often present as angry or irritable.

Fewer men than women express feelings of sadness or seek professional help, so the actual number of men with depression may be underestimated. Symptoms of depression are the same in both genders: persistent sadness, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, loss off interest or sense of pleasure in activities, difficulty sleeping, among many others.

However, depressed men more often suppress these feelings and delay or avoid seeking help by engaging in risk-taking behaviors— fast cars, excessive drinking, promiscuous sex— coping mechanisms that provide limited relief and often end in suicide.

Leading the world in the destigmatization of mental illness is Canada, with a national television campaign, “Let’s Talk.” In this segment, the stereotypical male response to mental illness — machismo — is juxtaposed against compassion and emotional intelligence.

In the same vein, former Surgeon General of the United States Richard Carmona said this in an article on men and depression on the NAMI site. ”Today we’re saying to men, it’s okay to talk to someone about what you’re thinking, or how you’re feeling, or if you’re hurting. We are attacking the stigma that tough guys can’t seek help. They can and they should.”

This Article

  •    Improved My Health
  •     Changed My Life
  •     Saved My Life

If a man in your life is struggling with feelings of hopelessness, visit the Real Men. Real Depression. page at NAMI. There you can learn more, find support, and read the stories of other men who have had the courage to seek help.

 

Sources:

Men and the Stigma of Mental Illness. goodmenproject.com. Retrieved June 10, 2015.

http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/men-and-thestigma-of-mental-illness-dg

Suicide Facts and Figures. afsp.org. Retrieved June 10, 2015.

https://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures

Depression and Men Fact Sheet. nami.org. Retrieved June 10, 2015.

http://www2.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Mental_Illnesses/Depression/...

Male Gender Role. psychologyofmen.com. Retrieved June 11, 2015.

http://www.psychologyofmen.org/male-gender-role

Men and Depression. nimh.hih.gov. Retrieved June 11, 2015.

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/men-and-depression/inde...

 

Reviewed June 12, 2015

by Michele Blacksberg RN

Edited by Jody Smith

Social stigma pertaining to depression is dissipating gradually and more and more people are coming out in the open. Depression does not discriminate and can befall anyone at any time. Seeking help is the only way out. And also the best. Timely intervention can steer a depressed person from the agony and help him/her lead a normal life. 

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Wow, you hit it on the nail. i did not know all the emotions i've felt and the behaviours of a tough guy that I reflect, happen to be coming off of the depression that I've faced on and off in my life. I've always felt scared to face depression so I would hide it behind being macho, being addicted to sex, action and violence. I in fact knew that I was depressed but I did not know what to do, so hiding it behind I thick wall felt necessary. Thanks for the article Lindsay!

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There is still a lot of stigma attached to having mental illness whether male or female. It's something many people are afraid to talk about. In terms of males society still expects men to be able to cope with anything. It's viewed as being weak if a man can't cope.. We are expected to just get on with things. Sad but true. 

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I tried opening up to my ex-wife about my crippling sadness and anxiety, as I don't really have anyone else to potentially talk to. She told me to "man up" and is generally dismissive. I think this attitude is common.

I don't blame her because it sounds like whining, and obviously there are so many people suffering so horribly in the world, and everyone has their own problems. Who am I to complain?

But I don't take solace in others' suffering. And while I recognize that I seemingly have it good compared to people with "real" problems, I can't help how I feel. I live in my head, not in anyone else's. And in my head I am in constant lonely hell.

I can only sleep until about 2:00 a.m. usually. Then I just lie in bed. Often I scream or twitch. I can't commit suicide, but I've started asking God to take me home soon. I don't want to live a few more decades (?) like this.

Depression is not socially acceptable in the male world. It is what it is. It's a hard lonely burden to carry. Those who don't have it just cannot understand, and all the trite advice (even if it's god advice) and self-help books offer only temporary relief for me.

All I can do is wait for the end, whenever it may come. The best salve for me is knowing that all things must pass.

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This post is great, thanks! I was told to "man up" today. Didn't quite no how to respond to that one.

 

Let's see, I've also heard:

  • "Grow a pair"
  • "Shake it off"
  • "Snap out of it"
  • "Cowboy up"
  • "Get your s**t together"
  • "Get with the program"
  • "Stop dickin' around"

All of them stupid, ignorant, testosterone-laden ways of saying, "You're creeping me out: stop that."

 

I hate having to apologize for my own gender, but it keeps being necessary...

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there is alot of discrimnation against man im pretty emotional I don,t care who knows I don,t go out of my way to follow gender sterotypes if people try to force me into the role they want me to play i just don,t talk to them and I hate when people make blanket statment mens like men like this women like that.I have trouble having male friends because there is always some hostilty or anxiety i sense from them,because I act assertive and self confident,but also im emotionally available and don,t follow gender norms,i like emotional things,i like cookies i like kittens and im not going to pretend I don,t t make male friends or attract women,you either like me or you don,t no game playing no faking to meet societies expecations.

 

if people say that kind of man up ###### to me,I take it as a attack and call them out for being rude,if they don,t like the tension they should learn to treat everyone as a human being both men and women.i don,t understand how people can tolerate this behavior.If people bail on me for sticking up for myself there not worth getting to know anyway.its all made up crap by soceity anyway,i don,t know why people care so much,if someone aacts like that it just shows there a a******,people like that are like nazi that want you to conform with everyone else.

Edited by scienceguy

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I place the blame on gender roles as the source of so much unnecessary stigma, inequalities, along with a whole list of other problems.  Can't do X because I am a [insert gender].  Must act like Y because I am [insert gender]. 

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Red,

With depression, you are carrying 100 lbs. of sandbags on your head with you wherever you go, all day long.  Do I know that feeling.  Waking at 2 am, night after night, seeing no end.  

 

I've really started to turn the corner.  Step 1 was re-examining everything about my life that I felt stuck doing, felt like I had no choice.  I started changing everything that I thought could never be changed.  I had nothing to lose, so why not.  

 

Much to my amazement, life went on after I quit my 'good' job that i hated.  When I started telling my wife that she too, had to put in a little effort to our marriage, she quit, and amazingly life got much better.  

 

Whatever is binding you, walk away.  You're growing much stronger than you know  being used to 100 lbs on your head all day.  And when it releases, few will enjoy freedom as deeply as you. 

 

I'm cheering for your brother.  

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I have said it before and I will say it again - until society eliminates the stigma against mental illness in men, especially as it relates to the workplace, men will not seek the help they need. To admit to having a mental illness is tantamount to saying goodbye to one's career. If he isn't fired outright, his chances of promotion and advancement are virtually eliminated. In my case, I was a local government employee and had to hide my depression for years in order to keep my job. No citizen wants a mentally ill person working for them in government regardless of how much they say to the contrary. To admit that you are suffering from depression, or any other mental problem if you are a man, is to open yourself up to unemployment and a very bleak future.

Your 100% correct , just the way it is.  Mental Health in this country needs some drastic attention.

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My depression was so overwhelming, so self-evident there was no hope of encasing it. I hadn't learned compartmentalization at that time to any functional degree. That would come later. 

Most of my friends disappeared off in groups to do stuff leaving me isolated. I kinda felt all the other guys were tougher, harder, stronger than me. That i was unworthy of their time and company.

In the end, folks just stopped visiting. I guess I was the lame wolf in the pack. My boss didn't even want to discuss it, how I was throwing up in the mornings on the way to work. I tried to hide this particular infirmity.

After I quit, my boss told me he was sorry he'd not given me the time...At the time, I guess he just didn't wanna see it for whatever reason. I explained it was brain chemicals being out of kilter rather than tell him I 

was a PsychoEmotional ticking bomb.

I ended up overdosing on something, Codeine i think, and a lot of whisky. Not good memories of having my stomach pumped. The nurses seemed to be rather bothered by my actions too. I've had my stomach pumped four times

and none were as painful as that one. I did feel they were also judging me without even bothering as to why. That's not right. So men and women discriminate. Perhaps its a natural response to avoid people who aren't "normal" 

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Here here...

 

I've been dealing with this most of my adult life. I learned, through trial and error that you cannot trust your family, 100% of your male coworkers and 99% of your female coworkers with this damn disease.

 

In my case, my now-ex-wife decided to use it as a stick against, first in day to day life, and then in 6 years of pre and post-decree divorce proceedings.

 

I went through several regimens of medications SRI's and Stabilizers mostly...and suffered through the side effects...libido suppression, memory loss etc. (One time, I could not remember where I lived...)

 

My new wife is far more understanding...understands the triggers and what to do about it.

 

Unfortunately, as I've gotten older, I've learned that there is no real beating this....it is what it is.  The last year has been (and continues to be) quite gruesome. Coupling depression with Low-T is a mixture...trust me.

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From my background, being emotional or even showing an ounce of vulnerability is frown upon. Either you pulled the weight around the household or you were a weak, sorry assistance man who cannot be productive because he is so "petty" and "too much of a punk". I'm still dealing with this stigma frequently.

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Feeling the stigma worse and worse each day.  I suppose I could fake my condition, as I do in Public, but I'm through apologizing to friends and family who just don't get it.  They have become more and more distant,  I guess they think me less of a friend or person not retreating to my former pattern of accepting all the blame and guilt and apologizing.  It is from them I expect some support, even if they don't get the mechanics of depression.  I don't have the energy any more to keep these unbalanced relationships alive anymore.  The solution:  Holding on to the true friends you have maybe two or three, and networking to meet new friends.

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On ‎2‎/‎11‎/‎2016 at 9:02 PM, highanxiety said:

Feeling the stigma worse and worse each day.  I suppose I could fake my condition, as I do in Public, but I'm through apologizing to friends and family who just don't get it.  They have become more and more distant,  I guess they think me less of a friend or person not retreating to my former pattern of accepting all the blame and guilt and apologizing.  It is from them I expect some support, even if they don't get the mechanics of depression.  I don't have the energy any more to keep these unbalanced relationships alive anymore.  The solution:  Holding on to the true friends you have maybe two or three, and networking to meet new friends.

I understand where your coming from  when I think I can't get any lower theres always tomorrow. Tomorrow i will be as low as I've ever been. But come sunday a new low, its that way everyday.

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Be a man! Still means something to some while be a woman! means nothing. All bulls*** of course. Be a man! Be strong and self sufficient. No-one is. There's the Rudyard Kipling 'If' version of what it means to be a man. If you do X, Y and Z, you'll be a man my son. He also wrote an ode to rascism with 'The white man's burden' so ignore that twat. Women are more likely to seek medical help earlier. A guy will look at it and think "Nah, it's alright. It'll probably be ok in a week or so. It's only a little green." The same thing probably goes for mental problems - men are less likely to seek help because we're strong and self sufficient. Load of crap obviously. Women are better at talking about their feelings, whether that extends to chronic depression I don't know, but it's not even there for men. Men don't talk about feelings. Ha! He has feelings! What do you think about whatever pointless sport thing that happened? I think I've always prefered talking to women. I don't mean to sound sexist but they are nicer than us.

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