Depression: Don’t “Man Up”!

By Terry Streather | Mental Health

Apr 07

What makes a young man walk onto a train track and laydown? Or throw himself from a multi-storey car park or a bridge over the M1?

Rhetorical question of course, I'm not sure it's as easy as pointing to one single cause.

"You're Depressed? Why? It can't be that bad! What have you got to be depressed about? Just man up!"  

"Wow, that really helped guys, thanks- why didn't I think of that?"  Seriously?

I know these things are said with the very best intentions, and more often than not people don't really know what to say. But if depression has ever visited you, you will know how useless this "well-intentioned-but-laced-with- judgement" advice is.

I'm talking about real depression here, like nothing is enjoyable anymore. Just feeling a bit bummed because your team were beaten on the weekend, or you missed the stag do to Vegas because of work, is not depression.

​Men have a problem

I want to focus on men in particular, because we seem to be the worst at getting this stuff sorted.

For a lot of men talking or opening up about their feelings or what's going on in their heads is a bridge too far. All that sharing emotions and talking, holding hands and singing around a camp fire- no thank you, I would rather handle this myself! What's the worst that can happen?

Suicide. That's what.

Suicide among young men is a huge problem...and we need to stop pretending it isn't.

In this very short post I want to raise awareness of this preventable killer that is taking the lives of more men under 50 than any other illness, or fatal road traffic collisions. 

ONS data

Of the 6188 recorded suicides in 2015- 75% were male and 25% female

With the right support, people with depression CAN and DO recover. 

It's easy to get swept up in the headlines and statistics, but behind every number is a real person, a family and friends, deeply affected.

The real tragedy is that the vast majority of men who have taken their own lives have never spoken to anyone- or tried to get help.

Of course, being depressed doesn't mean a person will have suicidal thoughts. 

But left unchecked, depression can develop into very serious mental ill health problem. And we know the most common underlying mental ill health problem linked to suicide is depression.

People don't just wake up suddenly one day and say: "I know, I think I'll kill myself!" There is a build up. One thing (or thought) on top of another until life becomes intolerable- the only way out (for a wide variety of reasons) is to end that life. Check out my previous blog about suicide here. 

Why is it that suicide figures are hugely weighted towards men?

There's no one answer to that- and I'm sure you have your own thoughts.

For some men the embarrassment or perceived consequences of getting help are just too great. What will the lads down the pub say? He's soft or weak; just pulling a fast one because he's lazy; he's less of a man; a "nutter" "psycho" or "window-licker". What would your dad think? Or your grandad?

The reality is that dads and grandads probably experienced these feelings too, and "Manning Up" was what their society expected. We used to think the world was flat too, and that flying was only for birds and that the moon was made of cheese... (I might have made that last one up). ​

The good news is that conversation is already taking place and change is happening. People are so much more understanding and aware than we were even ten years ago. 

Today is World Health Day and the focus is on Depression. They have produced a really clear PDF about depression if you fancy a read. This video which explains more about what it's like to live with depression is well worth a watch. 

If you are human then it is highly likely you will at some point wrestle with depression or some other form of mental ill health. ​It really is not a sign of weakness. We all have mental health. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not. 

Trying to soldier on alone for whatever reason is not the brightest thing to do. ​

It is only when people and men in particular, are able to open up without fear of ridicule or negative consequences (perceived or real) that we will move the needle.

How do you do that? One conversation at a time I suppose.


Follow

About the Author

Terry is Director and Head of Training at Oakwood. He helps clients promote a proactive, rather than reactive approach to both personal safety and the positive mental health of their staff. He has over 12 years teaching experience in these areas, and advises organisations in the development of appropriate risk assessment and policy.