The Minds of Men
Granted, it’s a bit of a dramatic title but now that I have your attention, it is time for everyone’s favourite month: Movember! Let the facial hair begin! In all seriousness though, bringing awareness about men’s health should not be limited to just this month; and men’s health doesn’t just include physical disease or illness, it also includes mental health.
1 in 10 men will experience MDD (major depressive disorder) at some point in their lives, and 1 in 5 suffer from some type of mental health problem each year. While statistics report that women have a higher rate of depression and anxiety than men (almost a 1:2 ratio), there are some reasons why this might not be an accurate representation of the actual rates.
Underreporting by men: Mental health is slowly becoming less of a stigmatized subject (although, there is still more work to do). However, there is a marked difference in the stigmatization between genders. There are societal pressures and expectations generally placed on the stereotypical, hegemonic male persona which dictates that it is inappropriate or ‘weak’ to feel a range of emotions including sadness, anxiousness, etc. This mentality and the associated pressure can lead men to ignore symptoms or deal with it themselves. Anger is the main emotion that is perceived as acceptable from men, it seems, which bring us to our next point.
The manifestation of depression (and other mental health conditions) is different between men and women: Anger, irritability, risk-taking behavior, escaping behavior or substance abuse are some ways that depression commonly manifests in men and therefore may not be recognized by a health care practitioner (HCP). The current criteria for diagnosis of depression/anxiety are based primarily on the female experience of these conditions.
Less contact with a health professional: Men account for 65% of those who haven’t been in contact with a physician in 2-5 years and this statistic increases when it is has been more than 5 years. It’s difficult to talk about an identified issue with an HCP or have it identified if you don’t see a professional.
What YOU Can Do About It:
Talk about it: I am not a guy, and don’t claim to know what it’s like to bring up these concerns with friends and family, but research shows the importance of discussing these kinds of issues with those close to you.
Connect with a Professional who can guide you in the right direction.
Diet: Those French Fries or Frostys may taste amazing but regular consumption of fast food has been linked with an increased rate in depression; conversely a diet full of healthy fats, protein and veg has been shown to mitigate the risk (for more than one reason).
Exercise! This not only immediately increases mood through a cascade of endorphins, it works long-term on self-esteem and can be a hobby (which is a protective factor in itself).
Reach out: If you think a friend, partner or family member may be experiencing anxiety/depression, discreetly offer your support.
HeadsUPGuys is an incredible resource for men that answers questions, has further resources if needed and even a ‘Self-Check’ that guides you through a list of questions to assess your depression/anxiety risk.
Courtenay, Will H. "Constructions of masculinity and their influence on men's well-being: a theory of gender and health." Social science & medicine 50.10 (2000): 1385-1401.