At least 20% of South Africans will suffer from a mental illness, like depression, at some point in their lives. The stigma surrounding depression and other mental illnesses has caused many patients, especially men, to feel ashamed and hide their struggle, because they view it as a weakness. It is estimated that 70% of sufferers remain undiagnosed, untreated and unsupported. This can have fatal consequences, as they do not then receive the healthcare that they need.
Here are some of the facts about depression in men:
1) Active discrimination is the most damaging aspect of stigma, along with the misuse of power, labelling and stereotyping. Many men blame and judge themselves for falling short of societal norms on masculinity, resulting in self-stigmatisation that makes them reluctant to seek professional help.
2) Depression causes one to feel out of control and unable to cope with life situations. Many men feel that this undermines their masculinity and they turn to suicide as a way of regaining control. They are a threat not only to themselves, but also to those around them, particularly their family members, who they believe will not be provided for without them.
3) Men often don’t want to deal with the symptoms of depression and instead turn to alcohol, recreational drugs, and risky behaviours, such as reckless driving and unprotected sex.
4) Attempting to suppress their emotions and avoid the underlying psychological issues, some men immerse themselves in escapist behaviour, like overworking, excessive exercise or extreme sports.
5) There are many symptoms of depression that are common to both men and women, such as sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, irritability, exhaustion and lethargy, insomnia or oversleeping, and a change in eating patterns.
If you suspect that a loved one is suffering from depression, probe them a little deeper to help them open up. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the more effectively depression can be treated.