The Rock. Prince Harry. Logic. Ryan Reynolds. Michael Phelps. Kevin Love. Brandon Marshall. These famous men have courageously opened up about their struggles with a silent illness that’s eschewed when it comes to traditional masculinity: Depression.
Depression in men is a common yet treatable health condition that’s shrouded in myths about weakness and willpower. Here are four things to help you understand the complexities behind men struggling with mental illness – and why it’s underreported.
More men experience depression than seek help
Depression takes a heavy toll on men. Each year, more than six million men in the U.S. are diagnosed with depression. And since going to therapy to talk about problems carries the stigma of victimhood, countless more suffer in silence and do not seek treatment or support.
Spotting the signs can be hard to discern
Men and women cope with depression differently, according to the Mayo Clinic. Depression often goes unrecognized in men by friends and family, particularly in the early stages, when coping behaviors are disguised as burnout and fall outside the classic warning signs of mental illness. For instance, rather than a low mood and sadness, subtle signs may show up in the form of anger, irritability and even escapist behaviors such as working very long hours, pursuing dangerous sports, reckless driving and substance use.
The weight of emotional pain
Mental Health First Aid teaches people how to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression, like difficulty sleeping, impaired concentration and lack of interest in work and activities that were once enjoyable. It’s common for mental health professionals and doctors to ask questions like these to screen for signs of depression. However, research shows that men who are depressed are more likely to see their primary care doctor about symptoms that impair their physical health – feeling run down, unexplained back pain, persistent headaches and digestive issues – than attach emotional symptoms to depression.
Asking for help isn’t easy
It takes courage to seek help. For men who are prone to depression, leaning into positive relationships with friends and family can be one key to building resilience. Essentially, it’s a healthy step toward healing and recovery. To explore more concrete, actionable approaches to help someone you know fight depression, #BeTheDifference and find a Mental Health First Aid course near you.