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Depression Have You Stretched Way Too Thin?

Stressed Man “His mom wasn’t there, his father was locked up for life.  Who’d he have to lean on?  His grandmother lived in a whole other state, so he really had nobody.  He felt like he wasn’t being loved. . . So I think that’s why he was so depressed.”

                                                               Tiffany Broadnax

Tiffany will never know the real reason Jamel Marshall was depressed. She will never speak to him again. Jamel’s grandmother found his lifeless body hanging by his belt from the shower head. It was January 2005.

Tiffany, like thousands of family members of suicide victims, vehemently wished Jamel, 26, had come to her or anybody else beforehand. Why?

Some men might not know they have a mental illness said Dr. Aaron Rochlen, a licensed psychologist and an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Depression may surface in a different way than what you might typically think of as a depression,” says Rochlen. “Instead of crying all the time or expressing sadness or loss of interest in activity, they may find themselves withdrawing more, investing themselves more in their work, or isolating themselves from their partner.”

But the tough construction worker, the busy executive, the fervent husband and the stern father who has a handful of responsibilities along with a high reputation to maintain, may feel that having a problem is beneath him. He might ignore it.

“It has a lot to do with how we socialize boys and what it means to be a man in our society; that you’re strong and you’re not weak-you don’t get help,” says Sam Cochran, PhD, and Director of University Counseling Services at the University of Iowa.  “You take care of your problems and then you solve them. You don’t cry and you don’t whine.”               

Though crying and whining are blatant manifestations of burdening problems, other not-as-recognizable symptoms of depression, such as feelings of hopelessness or pessimism, difficulty concentrating or remembering and feelings of discouragement and guilt can be easily kept in the closet. Men are great at masking them, but sometimes it is done by misusing alcohol or drugs.

The National Institute of Mental Health says that men die more than four times as as women by suicide in the US; mainly because men are less likely to seek treatment.  Untreated or improperly treated depression is the number one cause of suicide in the United States.

The National Institute of Mental Health launched a campaign called Real Men Real Depression to encourage men who are depressed to seek help. It is the first national public education effort to raise awareness that depression is a major public health problem affecting an estimated six million men annually. 

The primary message of the campaign; it takes courage to ask for help.

Regardless of race, sex, age or socioeconomic status, depression can sink into the souls of anyone because there is no underlying cause. Genetic forces as well as environmental issues can play key roles in determining the reasons for the illness. 

With recent military conflicts, some men may return from the Middle East with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened.  PTSD can correlate with depression in men.

“PTSD is a huge problem and seems to be more of a male problem than a female problem,” said Rochlen.            

The severity of depression can increase if another illness or disorder is present.  Several forms of treatment such as anti-depressant medication and psychotherapy are readily available for men once they report their problem. 

Although anti-depressants can be taken anywhere from the comfort of the home to at the job, psychotherapy involves weekly communicative therapies with psychiatrists or psychologists. Men are encouraged to take both measures, although they do not immediately seek counseling. Family support can also serve as an anti-depressant.

Tiffany will never forget how the sun shined the day the she found out about Jamel. The song that was on the radio, her clothes and the last conversation they had are indelible images in her mind. Every January, a reminder of what happened. A memory that cannot be replaced for her.

But for you, a memory that never has to be.

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