May 2017

All posts from May 2017


Causes of Depression in Men

Once upon a time, the world was a simple place in which everyone’s role in life was spelled out.

Gender roles were very specific, and there wasn’t any question about what men were expected to do or be like. A man could feel secure in his role because of that. On a global scale, men were and still are expected to be strong, silent, successful and stable. However, these days, there are many questions. Nothing is spelled out, and nothing is concrete. A man can have difficulty figuring it all out and finding his place in the world. As a result, men are often left trying to grapple with the mixed messages that the world sends them, and can feel lost and adrift. They can be left feeling very insecure about themselves, and about what it means to be a man. Everything about them as men is tied into things that no longer have real relevance in this ever-changing world. The ambiguity of their situation can be a root cause of depression in men.

Big boys don’t cry. Man up. Suck it up, buttercup. From an early age, boys are taught that they aren’t allowed to express feelings like girls do. They’re not allowed to be vulnerable, to have emotions, or to be seen as weak. In spite of all of the changes in our world regarding equality between the sexes, there really hasn’t been any concrete change in these areas of a boy’s life growing up, or in a man’s life. Even in modern sitcoms, a man who shows his feelings and allows himself to be vulnerable is called a “girl”, as if he has somehow compromised his masculinity by expressing these things. Women have made great strides in changing the way the world views them, and that’s as it should be. The problem is that somewhere along the way, men got left behind. Their place in the world no longer being clear-cut leaves them somewhat out on a limb, hanging rather precariously over a lake of muddy water.

What causes depression in men is much more easily understood by taking a step back and looking at the whole picture. Many men still tie their sense of self-worth to their job, their ability to be successful at work. This can be very difficult, especially given the instability of the current employment market. Jobs are hard to get and harder to keep. Toxic work environments, low pay and excessive workloads can bring stress levels to the breaking point, and they aren’t allowed to talk about that. They’re expected to suck it up and get on with it. Being a man in these circumstances can be a very lonely and trying experience. When you can’t win no matter what you do, it can be very tempting to just give up.

Many men don’t actually realise that they’re depressed because men experience depression differently from women. Men will suffer more from irritability, sudden anger, loss of control, greater risk-taking behaviours, and aggression. Their behaviour will often be mistaken for anger issues. The pressures that they face are made worse by the feeling that they’re unable to talk to anyone without appearing weak. Far too often, the end result is suicide. For men, depression often is fatal. It’s a huge step for a man to actually admit that he needs to talk to someone. The person that he chooses to talk to will need to be someone who gets what it means to be a man, what depression is for men, and how to help men to regain their sense of self-worth. This is where men’s groups and counselling for men can be a vital resource for them. It might not be very often that a man would find a female therapist that he could talk to, and many men feel that talking to a woman would inhibit their ability to talk openly. They can also feel that a woman just wouldn’t understand what causes depression for men or how men experience depression, and for the most part, they could be right. The main thing, though, is to find someone to talk to that you’re comfortable with, talk, get help, and take action to get out of the grip of depression.

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How do I know if my friend is depressed?  

Most people who are depressed have difficulty talking about it.  People can be very good at hiding depression, but there are little changes that you can be aware of. 

A person who usually has a bubbly personality can still present as bubbly when depressed, but if he begins to turn down social invitations that he ordinarily would have accepted, starts only engaging only in “small talk” where he used to be more involved in conversation, doesn’t listen to music much anymore, or any other small changes in behaviour are present, and you notice these changes have been present almost daily for at least two weeks, then your friend could be depressed.

Talking to a friend who is depressed can be difficult.  There are some helpful and unhelpful things to be aware of before you attempt it.  It’s helpful if you tell your friend how important they are to you, and that you’ll be there for them if they ever need you.  It’s not helpful to tell them that others have it harder or that that’s life.  Make yourself available for them in ways that make them feel safe and comfortable talking to you.  Don’t tell them to stop feeling sorry for themselves and get on with it.  Telling them that they’re not alone, depression is quite common, is one thing; telling them lots of people are depressed, just get over it, is quite another.  Telling them to try not to be depressed isn’t helpful.  It actually implies that it’s their fault that they’re depressed.  Don’t turn the conversation to yourself by talking about how you’ve been depressed before, or have known someone else who was depressed, and describing those experiences in detail.  The friend will need you to listen, not hit him with tales from the dark side.  Don’t tell them to stop crying and get back into the fun life, because that will make it all better… won’t.

It can be difficult to stop yourself from trying to “fix it” for your friend, but the one thing that you can do which has real value is listen and let them know that you value their friendship.  Tell them why you value their friendship.  Help them to understand that you really do get positive things from having them in your life.  Then, talk to them about getting help, but keep it simple.  The first port of call should be their GP.  Sometimes, depression is the result of physical illness, chemical imbalances, or hormonal changes, so it’s always good to be able to rule out anything medical.  The GP might try a course of anti-depressants, but that isn’t where it stops.  As your friend is taking them, he should also be talking to a therapist.  These days, doctors who are stretched to the limit with heavy caseloads insist on patients doing self-referrals for therapy, which takes time, phone calls, and paperwork, and the waiting lists are miles long.  This can be difficult for anyone, more so if the person is struggling with self-worth.  Private therapists who are willing to work with your budget are available if the waiting time seems to be too long; but again, it takes a little time to find them.  You probably can’t find the solution for your friend, but you can continue to support him while he is going through that process.  The main thing for people who have friends who are depressed to remember is that it doesn’t help if you overwhelm them with advice, healthcare tips, or lots of things you’ve downloaded from the internet on the subject.  Don’t try to educate them on what depression is or how to fix it.  Just be there for them and listen.

It’s also important to remember to take care of yourself.  It’s not often talked about, but a person can get what is known as “compassion fatigue”.  This is a form of burn-out experienced by people who give support to others, whether that’s for mental health, physical illness, or disability.  If the supporting person doesn’t take care of himself, he can become fatigued.  This causes people to start avoiding the person they’ve been supporting if at all possible, to lose patience with the person, and to perhaps sometimes say or do things that they later regret.  Self-care is important for all of us, but if you’re helping to support someone who is depressed, it’s even more so.  Make sure that your friend has the number to mental health support lines so that he has other options for support besides you, and set boundaries for yourself so that you have time to rest.  This will help you both.

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What causes depression in women?

There are many different things that can cause depression in women. Physical illness can cause depression, especially if it’s long-term.
The imbalances of hormones that are associated with the menstrual cycle can cause depression as well as physical pain. However, women have many external reasons for depression, too. For instance, women tend to be taken less seriously by their GP, and are frequently laughed at for being silly, imagining the illness or depression, etc. They are actually still often told that they just need to take a nap, go to a spa, or buy themselves something nice, as if they couldn’t possibly have any serious reason for being depressed. People can say things that are neither true nor kind, such as accusing her of just being “hormonal”. This points to another major cause of depression in women….the almost

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Men and depression

Recently, we’ve been seeing quite a few stories in the news about men and depression, how depression affects men,  and what causes depression in men. 

There are certain aspects of our emotional make-up which are influenced by hormones.  It’s important to understand that both men and women have emotions.  They simply experience emotions differently.  In many ways, culture influences how emotions are experienced by men and women.  From a very early age, girls get taken care of if they cry.  Boys are told that big boys don’t cry.  Women are rarely told that they need to just suck it up.  Men, on the other hand, are

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