Just recently someone asked me why we focus our efforts on just men and not women too. I have a few specific reasons why our focus is men, but at the same time let me explain how this focus on men really impacts all of us. Our Mission reads: “Through education, online tools, and peer support Face It works with men to understand and overcome depression.”
First, my focus on men obviously begins with my own experiences as a man who lived with depression and tried to take his own life. When I was depressed I felt enormous pressure to just “get over it” and “quit my complaining.” I tried really hard to do both of those things and neither one did much to help my depression.
Second, men are not very likely to admit to being depressed and I believe this is due to stigma and a lack of awareness. Men need to understand what depression is and they need to feel comfortable being able to admit it and seek treatment for it. The more we can push the conversation and encourage others to recognize that men have the same challenges with depression as women do, the better off we will all be.
Third, the reality is that of the 34,000 suicides in the United States men commit over 27,000 of them. Most suicides are attributed to untreated depression. These men and often young men who are dying are not some “selfish bastard” as I was once called. Rather these are men with wives, partners, children, friends, careers, and futures that are being cut short due to an illness that can absolutely take over a person’s ability to be rational. Raising awareness about the issue of depression in men just might save some lives.
Fourth, our current approaches to treating depression (i.e. antidepressants and psychotherapy) are often rejected by men. Burgeoning evidence is demonstrating that there are many paths to improving depression, such as exercise, diet, sleep, and peer support. It seems to me that rather than forcing men into therapy we need to explore other alternatives to treating their depression. In addition, the literature is clear and medical doctors (who most frequently see depressed men) are less likely to diagnose, treat, or even discuss depression with a man than they are with a woman.
Depression isn’t an illness that occurs in a vacuum. When a man is suffering from depression he can have a profound negative impact on all those around him. A healthy and content man is a much better spouse, father, friend, colleague, etc. So, yes we are focusing on men because it is sorely needed, but at the same time our efforts will improve life for all of us.