Helping men to tackle depression
Anxiety and depression make up the most common form of mental health problem in the UK. But while statistics show that depression mainly affects women, it is also widely accepted that men struggle to report their symptoms.
Indications are that men are just as susceptible to depression as women, and the implications of not reporting their illness to their GP, or seeking help and support can lead to devastating consequences.
World’s most disabling condition
With 1 in 5 people experiencing the condition at some point in their lives, and the World Health Organisation predicting that by 2020 depression will be the world’s most disabling condition – above cancer and AIDS – there is an urgent need to encourage sufferers, particularly men, to seek help.
In an ITV Tonight special*, Social Affairs Editor Penny Marshall explores the illness, and takes a close look at the way men deal with depression, and cope with the stigma that is still attached to mental health conditions.
‘Everyone has a story of a life lost’
‘During the making of this programme I have spoken to colleagues and countless strangers about male depression,’ Penny explains. ‘Everyone has a story of a life lost or a man they are trying to counsel in the best way they know how. The picture is sketchy about the scale of the problem but maybe we are on the cusp of change.’
With men three times more likely to die through suicide than women, seeking and gaining the right kind of help has never been more important. Phrases such as ‘man up’ and ‘big boys don’t cry’ appear to lie at the heart of men’s reluctance to admit that they are struggling and need to talk to their GP.
With high-profile celebrities, particularly sportsmen such as Marcus Trescothick and Stan Collymore, beginning to talk openly about the way depression has devastated their lives; there are moves to change male attitudes towards mental health.
‘There were some very dark times, lots of tears’
Ahead of his retirement former England rugby star Duncan Bell has revealed his battle with depression for many years: ‘I genuinely did think if someone’s depressed, anxious… just smile, it’s not hard is it? Just put a smile on your face, that’s what I thought, but then you go through some situations and realise it’s tough… There were some very dark times, lots of tears, which I think anyone tries to hide away from. It was difficult with 35 rugby players running around a field… never in a game, but definitely in training sessions, I’d have to try and have some self-resolve not to break down or run off and pretend to go to the toilet or take myself away from things.’
Know the symptoms
- being restless and agitated
- waking up early, having difficulty sleeping, or sleeping more
- feeling tired and lacking energy; doing less and less
- using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than usual
- not eating properly and losing or putting on weight
- crying a lot
- difficulty remembering things
- physical aches and pains with no physical cause
- feeling low-spirited for much of the time, every day
- being unusually irritable or impatient
- getting no pleasure out of life or what you usually enjoy
- losing interest in your sex life
- finding it hard to concentrate or make decisions
- blaming yourself and feeling unnecessarily guilty about things
- lacking self-confidence and self-esteem
- being preoccupied with negative thoughts
- feeling numb, empty and despairing
- feeling helpless
- distancing yourself from others; not asking for support
- taking a bleak, pessimistic view of the future
- experiencing a sense of unreality
- self-harming (by cutting yourself, for example)
- thinking about suicide.
Read more about the symptoms and treatment of depression, including what you can do to help yourself or someone you know.
(Posted on My Health London website: http://www.myhealth.london.nhs.uk/)