By Adam McRae
Depression and anxiety in men
One in eight men will experience depression in their lifetime and one in five will suffer from an anxiety disorder (Beyond Blue). Furthermore, there are currently 7% of men that suffer from substance abuse disorders (Hunter Institute of Mental Health; HIMH). Statistically speaking, you should know a man who is suffering from depression, anxiety, and/or substance abuse. However, this may not be the case because many men are discouraged to speak up when they are struggling and perceive help-seeking as a sign of weakness. Unfortunately, men are much less likely to seek help for mental health issues than women (HIMH).
The stigma around mental health in the male population is a likely contributor to male suicide rates, which are around three times higher than those of their female counterparts, despite rates of diagnosed mental illness being higher amongst females. In 2013 there were 40 suicides in the Illawarra Shoalhaven region alone.
This tendency to not seek help and not talk to others is an unhelpful stigma for men who are struggling. Research shows that connecting with others and talking about how you are feeling can reduce symptoms of mental illness and become a protective factor against suicide. This can be with a mental health professional but also with family and friends, through involvement in sports, local clubs or organisations, such as Wollongong Men’s Shed.
Symptoms to look out for
Feeling sad or anxious may not be the only ways to tell if someone is struggling with mental health. Other signs and symptoms that are more noticeable may be increased drinking or drug use, withdrawal from enjoyable activities and social events, isolation, and increased irritability and anger. Some men may also keep very busy to keep from experiencing unwanted emotions, for example, focusing obsessively on work.
Behaviours to manage difficult emotions that may seem helpful at first (e.g. drinking alcohol, focusing on work) can lead to long term consequences including relationship problems, issues with employment and health issues, such as weight gain/loss, heart palpitations or panic symptoms, and sleep difficulties.
If you’ve noticed some of these signs in yourself, or someone you know, it may be time to have a chat about it.
What can I do about it?
Talking about the problems sooner rather than later is important for maintaining emotional wellbeing. A good starting point is to talk to your local Wollongong GP who may give you tips to better manage on your own, such as increasing exercise, improving diet, reducing substance abuse and making time to relax. A GP may also refer you to a psychologist if your symptoms persist.
Marsden Clinical Psychology provide professional, discreet, and confidential psychological services in the Wollongong and Illawarra region. The psychologists are specifically trained to make you feel at ease quickly and most people report that their fears or apprehension about seeing a psychologist does not last long.
Our psychologists won’t just talk about feelings; there are a lot of practical and solution-focused techniques that can be effective in treating depression and anxiety.
Adam McRae is a registered psychologist that has extensive training and experience in the treatment of mens health issues, including depression and anxiety and thoughts of suicide.