Like most people, there have been times in my life where I was really down, even depressed. Things in my life just weren’t going the way I wanted them to go and most often for me, that boiled down to my love life. I remember one time in particular when I was going through a break up and was battling anxiety and depression to the point where I couldn’t concentrate on much nor could I eat or sleep at all. It felt like that pain would never go away and I just continued to isolate myself and ruminate on my problems. Finally, my best friend called me and asked me if I was okay. My response was, “I’m good bro.” I’m good bro? Why did I say that when I clearly wasn’t good. As a matter of fact, at that point in time I was at one of the lowest points in my life. I had lost several pounds from not eating, laid in bed praying for sleep to take the pain away, but the anxiety made my body tremor like I had the chills.
I was in pretty bad shape, yet my response was, “I’m good bro”. Even then I wondered to myself, why didn’t I just tell him what was going on with me? The answer was because I didn’t want to appear weak. I didn’t want to appear emasculated. I didn’t want anyone, especially another man to know that I was depressed, especially over a relationship. I felt shame in that. That shame kept me from asking for help. It kept me from talking about my thoughts and feelings. It nearly killed me.
From my experience, depression has a way of sneaking in, unassuming and nonthreatening. It has a way of making you feel comfortable with it, almost like a good friend or warm blanket, until it starts to suffocate you. Only then do most people realize that they are in danger and need help.
Sadly, too many people realize it too late and pay the ultimate price. Still as I was getting suffocated by depression, I muttered the words, “I’m good bro”, and effectively rejected any help my friend could have offered. As a mental health professional, what I have learned over the years is that most men who suffer from anxiety, depression and stress will also respond “I’m good bro” when they really aren’t. Men don’t like to talk about their feelings and are slow to ask for help.
For many men suffering from depression, anxiety or stress, it takes thoughts of suicide to compel them to reach out for help which usually means they have been suffering alone for quite a while. And that’s if they even reach out. While these men are suffering and attempting to “hold it together”, their suffering not only has negative affects on them, but also on their work performance, parenting ability and relationships in general.
Men like to think of depression and anxiety as problems women have, but men and women both suffer from these common problems. Men commit suicide at a much higher rate than women do. Stress, anxiety and depression may look different in men than it does in women as men tend to isolate themselves more, become less motivated and may show anger and hostility instead of shedding tears.
Some of the biggest causes of anxiety and depression in a men’s life are work, finances and health problems. The reasons men don’t talk about their mental health According to one study are:
• ‘I’ve learnt to deal with it’ (40%)
• ‘I don’t wish to be a burden to anyone’ (36%)
• ‘I’m too embarrassed’ (29%)
• ‘There’s negative stigma around this type of thing’ (20%)
• ‘I don’t want to admit I need support’ (17%)
• ‘I don’t want to appear weak’ (16%)
• ‘I have no one to talk to’ (14%)
Some of the issues surrounding getting men help is that men tend to prefer quick fixes while women prefer to talk about their feelings. While men definitely benefit from talk therapy, if talking appears to be the goal of therapy, men are less likely to want to start or continue therapy.
When men do want to talk about their feelings, most report that they would prefer to talk to their romantic partner, but not everyone has a romantic partner and even those who do may be uncomfortable feeling vulnerable.
In order for us to get more men to seek help, it’s important that we normalize men’s anxiety and depression so that there’s not so much stigma surrounding a man asking for help.