Men get depressed. You may read that and think “Of course they do.” However, can you name an organization off the top of your head that helps men who suffer from depression? Can you think of a man you knew to be depressed, and tried to help? Or did you simply say to yourself something like: “He’ll get over it”?
(Art Copyright Donny Miller)
We act as though depression is the ultimate self-indulgence. “Other’s have it worse.” “You should feel lucky.” “You are so ungrateful.” are common refrains, as if we ourselves are the only one who has ever truly felt pain. Guys who suffer from depression are often overlooked when it comes to getting proper care. They are often marginalized, called names like “wuss” or “wimp”, as if having painful feelings is a weakness.
Yesterday, we saw art world star Mike Kelley and music show legend Don Cornelius take their lives. We do not know, and may never know, what precipitated such actions, but we can presume they saw no clear way past the misery in their minds.
Responses to such things range from “Oh well, guess he was too weak to carry on” to “That’s selfish” to genuine grief and dismay.
What I take away from these two sad endings to such successful lives is this: you may not know someone you love is suffering. You may not know what to look for. You may not know how to help if you discover someone is depressed. Someone near and dear to you might be hurting deeply, with no way to articulate it, and you may be the only person who can save their life.
Depression isn’t self-pity. It isn’t a sign of weakness. It isn’t a joke, though some of the funniest people in the world suffer from depression. Depression with men is seen as a joke, weakness and pitiful. This misguided attitude needs to end.
Think about the men in your life. Who among them have been diagnosed with depression and subsequently sought and got treatment? My guess is not a lot. Yet I am sure you know guys who are “clearly” depressed.
Do yourself a favor and withhold judgement when you come across a friend who is exhibiting signs of depression. Reserve all the “you should” advice and instead let that person know you are there for them, unconditionally. Then help that person seek out professional help as soon as possible.
The life you save may not be your own, but helping someone avoid falling into a deeper depression is one of the best gifts you can give that person. Humor, sincerity, and honesty are great tools you can use to crack the shell of someone who has withdrawn into depression. Use those tools and never under-estimate your ability to change someone’s life for the better.
Though statistics show women suffer from depression nearly twice as much as men, I feel that the real numbers may be closer together, and that men in America, raised to push down emotion and live from the gut, may suffer from depression more than we know.
Depression is not selfish. It is not made up. It can be clinical, it can be mild, it can color every aspect of your life or it may ebb and flow in the life of a loved one. Depression is real, and it certainly affects someone in your life, and is, according to the CDC, the fasted raising malady out there for Americans.
I recently lost someone dear to me, not to death, fortunately, but lost them, still. Did I get depressed? Yes. I tried to play it off, but even as I write this I am feeling it creep back into my emotions.
I cope with depression by exercising. It is the only thing that works. Pills never worked, talking does little to help, for me. Exercise always gets me back into a good frame of mind.
But there were days, weeks, months and yes, several years, that were swallowed whole by black depression that was like the sky: covering everything I saw. I saw clinically depressed, and the pills prescribed to me made me feel worse. Most days, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the rest of my life would be miserable. Suicide presented itself as an option to me and luckily, if only because of dumb luck, I saw it for what it was: a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Here are some resources you may find helpful:
A great site full of good and useful information.