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As a woman, I feel comfortable telling people that I live with bipolar disorder and I often experience clinical depression.
However, I’ve heard from my male friends that they don’t have the same experience about opening up about being a man and having Depression. In my mind, this is a societal misperception and indicative of sexism. I believe that everyone with mental health issues has the right to feel their feelings in a candid way and speak about them openly. I was inspired to find out more about how men experience Depression.
I started with the staff of The Good Men Project for commentary on the subject.
Michael Kasdan, attorney and Director of Special Projects for The Good Men Project says society has a long way to go with regard to is perception of men living with Depression, “worth as a man in our society is often tied to sucking it up and providing, being tough and being self reliant.”
Kasdan first experienced Depression as an adult:
“I first realized I was experiencing depression when a family member (my sister) dragged me to see a therapist. I was absolutely paralyzed at work and at home, but at the age of 35 years old had never had a history of depression nor did I believe it was actually a thing. I kept telling myself I was just stressed at work.”
Kasdan knew that he needed to get help after he was working himself to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. This is a common theme amongst men with Depression. They often attribute their symptoms to stress or life circumstances.
Jean-François Claude had a similar experience to Kasdan. He writes on The Mighty about his doctor’s commentary:
“Mr. Claude, burnout is not a medical condition. You are going through a major depression, and I suspect you may have an underlying, unspecified mood disorder.” It was then that Claude accepted that he was living with Depression.
Jeremy McKeen, teacher and editor at The Good Men Project, realized early on that he was different from other boys his age in middle school. He remarks:
“Sometime during middle school I felt this weight and sadness that continued to grow, and it became part of who I am. As I developed I learned how to use it in the creative process through writing and music, but it grew as I grew.” McKeen was able to transform his depressed thoughts and feelings into art. I can relate to this, because I went to a performing arts high school. When I felt depressed, I could use my feelings in my acting roles.
Part of living with depression is knowing your limits. McKeen notes that he’s learned over time to set boundaries and utilize self-care:
“The older I get, the more I’m okay with saying that I just can’t do something right now or I need a mental break.”
It’s common to experience Depression as a teenager. Heydon Hensley, Domestic Violence Advocate, says that he was in his late teens when he recalled feeling dark feelings:
“I was diagnosed (with Depression) on my 17th birthday, But I requested to talk to someone a few weeks before that, because I saw a Zoloft commercial, and I felt like the depressed rock. Basically I had a name for what I was experiencing only 2.5 years after I had quietly attempted suicide.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one of the reasons the men don’t speak about having Depression is that they don’t feel heard or understood. As a society, it’s imperative that this changes.
Some men feel that they cannot be open about Depression for a variety of reasons. Michael Hampton, Professor, notes that he’s concealed Depression because he doesn’t feel understood by the majority of people. He say regarding his depressed feelings:
“I hid them since most can’t feel, or appreciate what it’s like to hold inside what I do.
Hampton is certainly not alone in these feelings. Matthew, a writer based out of the UK told me over the phone that he experiences trepidation when speaking abut Depression. Matthew believes that Depression is something that both men and women experiences, and living with Depression is (above all else) something that humanizes us:
“It (Depression) is definitely seen as a fault in men. There is an idea that men have to be the strong dependable and have the ability to get through everything. You have to convince people that you can be
strong but you can also be human.”
There are men out there who do feel more comfortable speaking about Depression. The importance of a support system is crucial. For Casey Ryan, podcast host, he was able to speak to his friends about his Depression. Ryan notes:
“I was lucky enough to have two very close friends that are still close today. They listened to me and helped as much as they could.”
Ryan seems to be an aberration from the men that I interviewed. Most of the men who commented on the societal stigma of men with Depression did not feel comfortable speaking about their mental health issue.
So what is the solution to this dilemma?
Men deserve to be treated with respect with regard to living with Depression.
We must fight against the internal societal sexism surrounding this issue. Men have the right to seek help to treat Depression, whether that means seeing a therapist, using online counseling from a company like BetterHelp or Talk Space, seeing a psychiatrist to explore taking medication for Depression, there are treatment options out there. I mention online counseling in particular because many men are afraid to admit that they are living with Depression and speaking anonymously online with a counselor may feel more comfortable to them.
Whatever treatment option a man chooses, it’s important that we respect his motivation to seek help for Depression, which is a legitimate health concern.
Let’s fight against the sexism surrounding men living with Depression.
Read more of Sarah Fader on The Good Men Project!
And enjoy and share these other great titles in our daily and #ThisIsHowSexismEnds Series!
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