While the Canadian Mental Health Association is focussing on women’s mental health during this year’s 63rd Annual Mental Health Week (May 5-11), it’s important to remember – and reinforce the message – that men are just as susceptible to mental illness.
Consider these facts:
- 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness at the time of their passing;
- 60% of deaths by suicide are attributable to diagnosable depressive disorders;
- women are 2 times more likely to be diagnosed with a Depression-related condition; BUT,
- men are 3 to 4 times more likely than women to die by suicide.
Why depression in men is under-reported more than likely stems from male cultural conditioning, social stigma and a general lack of awareness of how depression symptoms in men manifest themselves differently than in women.
Male depression may not include extended periods of sadness or tearful spells one might traditionally associate with depression. Rather, men may display outward expressions of anger and irritability. Unbeknownst to them, their feelings of emptiness, hopelessness and low self-esteem are, in fact, symptoms of their depression.
Men’s coping mechanisms may include burying themselves in work, drinking to excess and/or engaging in risky behaviours, potentially lapsing into serious addiction issues…all potential signs that a man is covertly coping with depression.
Not only does untreated, covert depression have a negative impact on the affected men themselves, but the resulting effects on spouses and children can have lifetime implications for their health and well-being as well.
The cone of silence must be lifted. The stigma around mental illness only further fuels the sufferer’s sense of shame, preventing people with a mental health condition – and men in particular – from getting the help they need… before it’s too late.
Openly talking about male mental health is a critical first step in getting men to realize they are not alone… that depression is not a gender-specific condition… that mental illness is a brain illness and not a a character flaw… and that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.