Why we as a society need to love our men enough to understand and act
I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life. And I’m not ashamed to admit it. It’s a complex physical and emotional mixing bowl that has me wondering what recipe the gods are trying to prepare as they grind me into little pieces with their mortar and pestle. And recently, through counseling, I’ve come to understand that there’s a dash of obsessive-compulsive tendency thrown into the mixture as well.
Thankfully, through the support of both good friends and good medicine, I can manage to find a modicum of peace and, when the need arises, I can soldier through even the worst flare-ups of these mostly invisible diseases.
But the remedies and support systems I mention above require a bit of pride-swallowing and emotional openness, and it is for this reason that many men who are victim to these mental issues suffer in silence, completely alone with their dark thoughts, teetering on the edge of self-destruction.
Better Health reports that “on average, one in eight men will have depression and one in five men will experience anxiety at some stage of their lives.”
These statistics are pretty startling and, to be honest, I can’t believe them completely.
Because many of the men I know would never admit to having these symptoms.
So these already troubling numbers are no doubt exponentially larger. And, as anyone who has struggled with anxiety or depression knows, these diseases affect not only the individual who suffers, but like a contagion, infect relationships with loved ones, career and financial success, and, well, everything and everyone that surrounds the “carrier.”
So, we need to detach the stigma that is associated with men who have depression and anxiety so that they can be better fathers, lovers, and productive citizens in our world today.
Reasons why men do not seek help from depression and anxiety
The National Alliance on Mental Health cites many of the reasons men refuse to acknowledge and seek help from the mental toll of anxiety or depression. Some of these reasons are as follows:
- the assumption that depression is synonymous with weakness
- the societal belief that men should be in control of their emotions
- the societal conviction that “real men” don’t need help from others
And as much as women suffer from society’s “cages” that trap them in traditional roles and refuse to see their three-dimensionality, the curse is not theirs alone.
Men have been taught to show power, to embrace strength and hide weakness, to be protectors and saviors, not individuals who need support and salvation themselves.
And, quite frankly, it’s killing them. Emotionally. Physically. Or, in many cases, it’s a “double murder”, killing first the emotional reserves that sustain human beings and then leading to self-destructive behaviors such as actual suicide or a multitude of practices that wreak havoc on the physical body.
Signs and symptoms of men who are struggling with depression or anxiety
In a Men’s Health article entitled “5 Common Anxiety Symptoms in Men,” they cite Carmen McLean, a Stanford University Department of Psychiatry researcher and professor, who states that “it is much more acceptable” for a man to embrace anger over actual anxiety.
As a result, Mayo Clinic cites that men who suffer from depression or anxiety may engage in hostile and reckless behaviors such as “controlling, violent, or abusive [actions], irritability, and [other] risky behaviors such as reckless driving.”
Physical violence, impulsive deadly behaviors, and dysfunctional relationships that hurt both abuser and abused.
Beyond Blue ,an Australian non-profit organization seeking to spread awareness of and help those who suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders, states that “it is very common, for men in particular, to try to mask or block out the symptoms of depression or anxiety by using alcohol or other drugs.”
So, while a woman may reach out to trusted family and friends when a depressive episode or anxiety attack occurs, men often embrace alcohol or other substances as a “substitute support system” to numb the painful thoughts and feelings that accompany these mental disorders.
And unfortunately, this method of dealing with anxiety or depression leads to a worsening of the initial problem itself. Foundation Recovery Network’s article “The Double Demons of Depression and Addiction” details a National Comorbidity Study that “found that men with alcohol dependence had rates of depression three times higher than the general population.”
So, men who drink to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety often find their depressive symptoms heighten as a result, with the effect being an extremely lethal combination that shows manifests itself both physically and emotionally.
For men who engage in this circular destructive cycle of hostility, isolation, or “self-medication,” the ultimate risk presents itself: suicide. While suicide is a so-called “solution” embraced by both women and men who suffer from anxiety or depression, Harvard Health reports that “depression may be more deadly for men than for women” and states that “four times as many men compared with women die from suicide.”
These tragic findings seem to relay that many men feel so entrapped by the diseases of anxiety and depression and the social stigma that accompanies their admission of these problems that the only way out is death. And that cold hard truth is heart-breaking.
A note for men struggling with anxiety or depression
You are not weak. You are not alone. And you do not have to suffer in silence. Depression and anxiety are caused by physiological processes and the results of living in a world that is often stressful, insensitive, or uncaring. And even the strongest humans are not immune to the devastations carried by this deadly combination.
Thomas Aquinas said that “three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do.”
So let me help save you by telling you some important things to remember.
- You ought to believe that you are deserving of happiness and inner peace.
- You ought to desire to find this peace so that you and your wives, daughters, sons, and friends may live in harmony and happiness.
- You ought to do what it takes to reclaim your happiness, to make your life and the lives of those whom you love better, and to begin to gift the universe with the unique talents and qualities that only you possess.
So, do what you ought to. And do it now with no guilt or feelings of cowardice. We love you. And we need you.