As a man who has suffered from depression and continues to attend a men’s depression and anxiety support group, I believe depression in men is greatly under reported. Many men do not admit to having depression. Some feel they just need to “Buck up” or “Pull their boot straps up”, so they do not consider getting support. Others tend to self-medicate. While more women attempt suicide, more men die by suicide as they more often chose a more violent method. I really appreciated the graphic below.
Please Note: Although I appreciate the graphic, I do not agree with ever using the term “succeed” when speaking of suicide–I have sent a message to the Holiner Psychiatric Group as well as David Wallace, the author of the blog that contained the graphic, to express my concerns on their language usage).
Click here to see the original site from which I obtained the graphic.
As someone who has been through a major depressive episode, I can assure you that depression is nothing like sadness. Sadness is a normal emotion that people feel at times. Sadness comes and sadness goes. At times, sadness is the least of the feelings or emotions that someone in a depressive state may be experiencing. In fact, I believe that one small part of the lack of understanding is the way people overuse the word “depression”. People use it synonymously with the word “Sad”. How many times have you heard someone say, “This weather is depressing?” or “I missed the show, I’m so depressed”. This significantly diminishes the severity and debilitating nature of depression. Would we ever describe the weather as “Cancerous”?
Depression often times manifests itself in a physical manner. I have heard depression described as a ‘numbness’ rather than a sadness. One therapist I saw described it as dealing with the flu or a traumatic brain injury. People experiencing depression may not be able to get out of their bed for days on end. I was lethargic. Often, it felt as though I was trying to move through quicksand. Many people experience a significant gain or loss of weight. I lost over forty pounds and often times was unable to eat when I was going through my major depression. I could not sleep, sometimes getting no more than ten or twelve hours of sleep for the week. Although I couldn’t sleep, I wanted to remain in the safety of my bed, rather than be awake and at a loss of what I should be doing. I had uncontrollable crying bouts, mostly contained to the evenings after struggling to “hold it together” for the entire day. The depression impacted my cognition and memory. I got lost when driving with my daughter to pick up a carpool friend who lived only blocks from our house. I knew exactly where they lived and had been there on a number of occasions, yet I had to pull over and map their address on my phone. Depression is often accompanied by a sense of guilt, particularly in cases in which there is no known trigger. In my case, I still cannot put my finger on what caused me to go into a major depression, or any depression for that matter. I had thoughts such as, “Why can’t I just be happy?”. I was worried to leave the house and struggled, as a typically very outgoing person, to engage with others. In my case, there were gradually increasing suicidal thoughts that I had eventually created a plan for.
I’m not sure if people who have not been through a major depressive episode can truly understand how it feels and how incredibly debilitating it can be. I hope that people begin to consider how they use the word “depression” and try to gain a better understanding of what it means for someone to be depressed.
As always, comments are welcomed and encouraged!
I am sure that throughout this new blog, I will be sharing entries that describe pieces of our current mental health system that simply are not working for those who it is supposedly meant to serve. Here are just a few concerns I have right off the bat:
- I have worked with high school aged students who were suicidal and have had to wait for a bed in a facility for three weeks. Not only is this tragic for the young man, but imagine being his parents, crossing your fingers each day and each morning, just hoping your child is still alive.
- I have met at least one man who needed immediate care who had to travel more than seventy miles outside of the city in order to get a bed in a facility. How is that person to see loved ones for support?
- In my own case, I go to a behavioral health clinic that charges a patient for any missed appointment and will not see them again if they have missed two (consecutive?) appointments. How does this serve patients (some of the most vulnerable people) who have a mental illness, many of whom struggle to get out of bed or leave their house? Unfortunately, I do not believe this policy is outside of the norm.
- At my intake meeting at a partial hospitalization program, I went through a three-hour or so intake meeting. After this meeting, I was given a diagnosis and a regimen of medicine. This was the first time these staff members had ever met me. I had a mental illness. Who knew if I was even answering the questions honestly or correctly? Many mental illness significantly impact memory, cognition, judgement, and much more. Many patients may be incapable of answering correctly and others may be fearful of being honest, particularly with questions such as, “Do you hear voices?” or “How much alcohol do you drink?”. Patients may then be given an incorrect diagnosis and put on meds that, in the worst case scenario, could be detrimental to their actual illness. As a bare minimum, I believe that patients should be requested to bring a loved one or someone who knows the patient very well. Of course, such a person may not be available, but the recommendation should certainly be made. In my case, I was very thankful to have brought my wife, who corrected many of my responses for me.
These are just a few of the concerns that I have. We need a system that truly serves the patients for whom the system was developed.
As always, comments to any of my blog posts are welcomed and encouraged. Thank you.
Webster’s definition of an epidemic:
1 : affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time <typhoid was epidemic>
2 a : excessively prevalent b : contagious 4 <epidemic laughter>
3 : characterized by very widespread growth or extent : of, relating to, or constituting an epidemic <the practice had reached epidemic proportions>
Webster’s definition of a pandemic:
: occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population <pandemic malaria>
The statistics around depression, and particularly suicide are, in my opinion, at a catastrophic level. It is mind blowing to me that this is not a topic of conversation on a regular basis throughout our society.
Here are just a few of those statistics that I’m referring to:
- In 2014, the number of deaths by suicide in the US was 42,773. (CDC)
- There is one death by suicide in the US every 12.3 minutes. (CDC)
- There is one death by suicide in the world every 40 seconds. (WHO)
- For every suicide (12.3 minutes) in the US, there are 25 attempts. (CDC)
- Suicide costs the US $44 billion annually. (AFSP)
Is this not clearly an epidemic? A pandemic? And this isn’t a public topic of conversation on a regular basis????