Even though women are more likely to experience depression, men are less likely to seek help – which leaves them at greater risk of ongoing health problems.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in eight Australian men experience depression at some time during their lifetime. While this incidence is lower than women (one in six), the worrying part is that men are less likely to seek help – even if they recognise the symptoms.
What is depression?
Everyone feels sad now and then, but depression is more than a low mood. It’s a serious condition that affects your physical and mental health, and something that won’t ‘go away by itself’.
If you’ve been mostly feeling sad or miserable for more than two weeks, you could be experiencing the effects of depression.
And just like other medical conditions, depression needs to be treated, or it can get worse.
What are the symptoms?
People with depression may suffer a number of symptoms. These include behavioural changes, different feelings and thoughts, as well as physical changes:
- not going out anymore, or withdrawing from family and friends
- no longer engaging in usually enjoyable activities
- difficulty concentrating or not getting things done at work or school
- relying on alcohol and sedatives.
- guilty or disappointed
- irritable or frustrated
- lacking confidence
- unhappy, miserable or sad
- ‘I’m a failure’
- ‘it’s my fault’
- ‘nothing good ever happens to me’
- ‘I’m worthless’
- ‘life’s not worth living’
- ‘people would be better off without me.’
- constantly feeling tired
- sick and run down
- headaches and muscle aches
- churning gut or gastrointestinal problems
- disrupted sleep
- loss or change of appetite
- significant weight loss or gain.
Why are men at increased risk?
Men are particularly susceptible because they are often less willing to seek help. That’s because many men believe they are supposed to be self-reliant and able to ‘tough it out’. There’s also a perception they should be able to manage pain, take charge of situations, and keep their emotions in check.
While there is no one cause of depression, risk factors for men include:
- health problems
- relationship issues
- difficulties at work
- social isolation
- significant change in living arrangements (e.g. separation or divorce)
- pregnancy and birth of a baby
- drug and alcohol use.
Instead of seeking help, studies have shown that men are more likely to resort to destructive behaviour (e.g. drinking, violence, drugs, acting recklessly), as a way to deal with depression. In addition, they are twice as likely as depressed women to manage the symptoms of their depression by abusing alcohol and drugs.
Those at particular risk are teenage boys, new dads, and elderly men.
What happens if you don’t seek help?
Depression is a high risk factor for suicide. Even though rates of depression in Australia are greater in women, suicide rates for men are higher. On average, six out of every eight people who die by suicide in Australia are male.
Other evidence suggests that untreated depression can lead to other health problems such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Go on – ask for help
Depression is just like any other medical problem. It requires treatment. The earlier you seek help, the quicker you’ll start to feel better. The good news is that you’re not alone; help is at hand. If you think you might be suffering from depression, speak to your doctor for further guidance and support.
Other places where you can seek help include:
- beyondblue: the national depression initiative, can be contacted on 1300 22 4636.
- Black Dog Institute: dedicated to understanding, preventing and treating mental illness.
- SANE Australia: helps all Australians affected by mental illness. Call their helpline on 1800 18 7263.
- Mensline Australia offers 24-hour, anonymous support for men with family and relationship problems especially around family breakdown or separation. They can be contacted on 1300 78 99 78.
- Lifeline offers 24-hour counselling, information and referral. Call them on 13 11 14.
- Serving and ex-serving ADF personnel can contact the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to receive fully-funded mental health treatment under the Non-Liability Health Care program. You can phone DVA on 1800 555 254 or email [email protected]
Remember, depression is an illness that can be treated. Make sure you do seek help if you, or a loved one is experiencing symptoms.