Post No.: 0146
Although recurrence rates and durations are similar, far more women than men become depressed in the first place, possibly because women face many more potential stressors in life. Globally, the peak incidence for depression is also currently around 30 years old for women compared to around 40 years old for men.
But more men than women die by suicide. In the UK, although the rate has seen a reduction in recent years due to greater mental health awareness, suicide is still currently the greatest killer of males under 50, and ~75% of all suicides are male. More women actually attempt suicide but survive though, partly because the methods generally selected by women end up being less lethal. To understand more about suicide, please read Post No.: 0129.
A factor for men is that men don’t tend to talk openly, or at all, about their feelings and so don’t tend to get the help they need. They therefore often bear the heavy pains completely on their own shoulders until they build and get too much for any one person to bear alone.
Yet even if men start trying to openly talk about their feelings with others – other men, as well as women, generally react unhelpfully towards them because they generally believe that men (especially the more tough they otherwise seem) should be ‘manly’ or ‘macho’ (and by ‘manly’ or ‘macho’ they mean to not talk about their feelings or express any so-called weaknesses). So it’s not just about having friends, but friends whom one can confidently talk about emotional matters with and be taken seriously, rather than have comments related to suicide or depression being dismissed as just ‘banter’ or ‘nonsense one needs to snap out of’ by mates.
So men are more likely to be stigmatised by others to keep their pains to themselves, which is how this type of toxic culture can lead to more men internally building up their depressive symptoms until crisis point i.e. suicide. This is all completely preventable.
Neuroticism may be linked to depression and anxiety, for neuroticism is about reacting strongly to stress. This may partly explain why women are more prone to depression and anxiety than men, for women, on average, rate slightly higher in neuroticism (but of course there can be a huge variation between individual people so this is not a reason for stereotypes). But men, in general, especially ‘tough silent-type’ men, don’t usually want to seem vulnerable, and others don’t tend to want to see (such) men being vulnerable either – and so that’s both a self-stigma (stigmatising oneself if one were to behave in a certain way) and a stigma (stigmatising someone else if they were to behave in a certain way) respectively.
In many cultures across the world, the stereotype is that men must look strong at all times hence there is a stigma towards seeing men cry. But crying evolved for a good reason, and people tend to feel better after a cry if and when they need one. It’s a relief to let the tears out – it evolved to be part of the healing process. And when it comes to self-stigma, many men don’t seek help because of the masculine ‘ideal’ of self-sufficiency and independence. Many people (of any gender) suicide without a diagnosis of any mental health disorder, but it might be the case that they would have had some kind of diagnosis if only they had been to see mental health services earlier.
More women will talk about their feelings with others (usually with other women) before they escalate towards lethal suicide, and women will feel safe to do so for there is far less stigma and self-stigma on women to talk about their feelings openly. Women will therefore tend to also receive more empathy from others if they open out. Whereas too many people treat depressive men curtly or even totally dismiss them about their feelings, or try to justify why they shouldn’t be feeling the way they are feeling, thus denying their feelings and making them feel even more isolated.
Some people naïvely think that telling a sufferer (or ‘complainer’) of any gender to just ‘stop it’ or ‘snap out of it’ is the answer(!) – to stop feeling what they’re feeling, or denying that they’re allowed to feel the way they’re feeling. But even if you need a person to move on quickly, allow him/her to let it out before moving on. More haste often leads to less speed. Self-pity is not good if prolonged but denying feelings can be extremely harmful for they can fester inside and in private until one breaks down suddenly, spectacularly or ultimately tragically. Whatever the case, it certainly isn’t helpful to meet it with an uncompassionate ‘oh quit your whining’ approach, which is essentially putting down someone for putting themselves down! Most people usually don’t intend any harm, and often mean to help, but they are actually harming the sufferer further by making them feel more worthless, ignored and depressed.
The sufferer talking, and all other people properly listening, without presumptions, without judgements or being advice-oriented, can alone help a sufferer immensely. Allow them to feel what they feel, to cry if they want to cry, rather than try to deny, dismiss or suppress them and their feelings so that they’ll feel like they must hide or harbour it inside and on their own, and making them feel even more alone and misunderstood. There should be no blame directed at anyone, and no self-focused ‘how can you do this to me?!’ sentiments. Too many men in particular (although women do it too) don’t properly listen or listen to the end first before responding – they are too immediately solution-biased in what they say, and think that giving advice makes it an easy open-and-shut case. It’s usually advice that’s not based on expertise but on the usual misunderstandings about mental health too. People can be too advice-oriented when the appropriate action is to just listen and fully allow another person to open up and express how they’re feeling. Fortunately, listening is a skill that can be learnt and practised. For the sufferer, just simply being heard and understood is a big part of the healing process.
Many people who attempt suicide but survive look back and are glad to be still alive – so people are worth saving. Therefore we need to be proactive in finding out those who are at risk. We must also be direct – ask a direct question of, “Are you thinking of ending your life?” or similar, because an indirect question like, “How are you?” or similar is too easy to skirt around, and a direct question also shows that you actually deeply sense and care about what a person might be feeling.
Woof. Please share with us via the Twitter comment button below what you think about seeing men cry or hearing men talk about their feelings? Do you believe there’s a time and place or do you believe it’s never appropriate? If you want, please also tell us your age group and where you were born and raised along with your views because these might be relevant to how one’s attitudes were formed.