By Joshua R. Beharry
Depression can be hard to talk about—so hard that a lot of men end up silently struggling for years, only to reach out when they’ve hit rock bottom. Others, sadly, don’t reach out at all. This is one of the reasons why men account for 3.5 times the number of suicides as women. And depression is one of the leading causes of suicide.
Fighting depression is difficult. Not only do you have to fight the illness but you also fight the stigma attached to it. For men, the fear of looking weak or unmanly adds to this strain. Anger, shame and other defenses can kick in as a means of self-protection but may ultimately prevent men from seeking treatment.
Here are some common myths that stand between men and recovery from depression:
It cannot be emphasized enough that depression has nothing to do with personal weakness. It is a serious health condition that millions of men contend with every year. It’s no different than if you develop diabetes or high blood pressure—it can happen to anyone. We show our strength by working and building supports to get better.
Depression is a mood disorder, which means it can make us feel down when there is absolutely nothing to feel down about. We can’t always control what we feel, but we can do our best to control how we react. And that includes choosing whether to ignore our problems or face them before they get out of hand.
Sometimes we need an outside perspective on what might be contributing to our depression. Consulting a professional who has more knowledge of depression and treatment options is the smartest thing to do. Trying to battle a mental health condition on your own is like trying to push a boulder up a mountain by yourself—without a team to back you up, it’s going to be a lot harder.
Ignoring depression won’t make it go away. Sometimes we think we know all the answers and that talking can’t help a situation. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Often, things that seem like a huge deal in our minds aren’t as stressful when we talk about them more openly with a friend or mental health professional. Talk therapy (or psychotherapy) is a proven treatment for depression. It’s useful for gaining new perspectives and developing new coping skills.
Being unhealthy and refusing to seek treatment can put pressure and stress on those that care about you, but asking for help does not make you a burden. It makes people feel good to help a loved one, so don’t try to hide what you’re going through from them. What’s most frustrating is when someone needs help, but they refuse to ask for it.
If you (or a man you know) think you might be living with depression, HeadsUpGuys is a website specifically designed to help men fight depression. The site features practical tips, information about professional services and stories of recovery. It also has a self-check that can help determine whether or not depression may be affecting you. Check it out today.
Since recovering from experiences with depression and a suicide attempt in 2010, Joshua R. Beharry has become a passionate advocate for mental health. Josh is currently the project coordinator for HeadsUpGuys, a resource for men in pursuit of better mental health.
Note: An earlier version of this blog appeared on NAMI.org in November 2016.
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