Depression: Helping men to get help
Depression: Helping men to get help
Rates of diagnosed depression and the findings of surveys suggest that women are at least twice as likely to suffer from depression than men.1,2 In contrast, rates of suicide and substance abuse disorder are consistently much higher in men.3 It may therefore be that the true prevalence of depression in men is masked by the underreporting of depressive symptoms, gender differences in the presentation of depression and lower rates of diagnosis of depression by clinicians.4
How does depression differ in men
In many cultures, boys are socialized not to express feelings such as sadness and fear, so men may be more likely to respond to mental pain by externalizing symptoms such as substance misuse, risk-taking and poor impulse control or experience emotions through physical (somatic) symptoms such as headaches.5,6 These symptoms and behaviours may be seen as “depressive equivalents,” meaning that they mask underlying sadness, loneliness and alienation.3 Studies have found that men who conform to the traditional masculinity norms (for instance, independence, physical toughness, minimal emotional expression) are more likely to have a more externalising, somatic pattern of depression than with less traditional gender norms.6
Are men less likely to seek professional help for depression?
Men may be less likely than women to seek help when they experience difficulties with their mental health.8 In a recent study of 530 men with moderate to severe depression, only 8.5% were currently engaged with professional mental health support.9 Tailored approaches to screening, promotion of help-seeking and treatment of depression in men may therefore be needed.5
[box] Young men are the least likely to seek help, yet the need in this age group may be greatest, since the onset of mental illness often begins in early adulthood. Untreated mental health problems can have short- and longer- term consequences including poorer education and employment opportunities, drug and alcohol problems and antisocial behaviour.7[/box]
How can we support men to seek help for depression?
In order to understand some of the barriers to receiving mental health support faced by men, we conducted a rapid review of the literature (Figure 1). We categorised these barriers in terms of the COM-B model.
Most of the barriers we identified could be addressed by targeted interventions. We’ve included examples of intervention components to address each group of barriers.
Interventions to promote help seeking for mental health should be user-driven, informed by the views and experiences of the target group and leverage everyday technology practices.
Potential interventional components
Additional resources and programs to support men’s mental health
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Mahalik, J.R., Dagirmanjian, F.R. Working-Class Men’s Constructions of Help-Seeking When Feeling Depressed or Sad. American Journal of Men’s Health. 2019, 1-13.
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Rice, S.M., Oliffe, J.L., Kealy, D., Seidler, Z.E., Ogrodniczuk, J.S. Men’s help-seeking for depression: attitudinal and structural barriers in symptomatic men. J. Prim Care Community Health, 2020,11:2150132720921686
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Clement, S., Schauman, O., Graham, T., Maggioni, F., EvansLacko, S., Bezborodovs, N., . . . Thornicroft, G. (2015). What is the impact of mental-health related stigma on help seeking? A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative studies. Psychological Medicine, 45, 11-27.
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