The hidden ‘epidemic’ of male depression
More and more men in their 40s and 50s are hiding depression behind drinking, anger and self-deprecating comments, experts say.
In 2011, 4,550 of the 6,045 UK suicide victims were male, sparking concerns that a combination of social pressure and insufficient support is contributing to a hidden epidemic of male depression.
“It’s worrying that the group most at risk now is middle-aged men because they’re not usually perceived to be a problem,” says Marjorie Wallace, founder of the mental health charity Sane.
According to clinical hypnotherapist Caroline Carr, men tend to pool their resources into functioning well at work, while letting themselves become withdrawn and distant in the home. Caroline, who’s own husband suffered from depression for many years, says men tend to lash out as a response to depression, and often suffer feelings of self-directed anger as a result.
Samaritans director of policy Joe Ferns believes men in their 40s and 50s are a ‘buffer generation’. While their fathers exercised stiff upper lip attitudes, their sons are far more emotionally articulate. Caught between the two, they are suffering something of a generational identity crisis trying to uphold traditional family values at the same time as trying to be sensitive and self-aware.
Samaritans lists the main signs of male depression as:
- Changing habits – i.e. more drinking and smoking, or less sleeping.
- Becoming withdrawn – not seeming to take pleasure in family life anymore.
- Aggressive or irritable behaviour.
- Isolation – avoiding friends and loved ones.
- Talking about stress – men are more likely to use the word ‘stress’ than ‘depression’.
- No longer caring about appearance.
- Self-deprecating statements.
- Loss of libido.
While it is hard to get through to someone when they don’t want to open up about their emotions, it is important that you try to support loved-ones through depression. Social pressures and ideas about ‘masculinity’ can make it difficult for men to admit there’s anything wrong. If you think something’s wrong then ask them. You can also encourage them to talk to a friend, a counsellor or even discuss their problems on an Internet forum.
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