In America alone, over 50 million Americans suffer each year from depression. And depression is a crippling illness. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I see men alone, in groups, and in couple’s counseling a lot who are clearly suffering from this affliction. Unfortunately, men are particularly vulnerable to feelings of shame. To them, seeking help to treat their depression is shameful because it’s an admission of mental and emotional weakness. Seeking treatment for them is tantamount to admitting that they’re inadequate or failures in some way.
Unfortunately, men have reasons to worry that suffering from depression is a sign of weakness. This bias is culturally sanctioned!! In reliable survey after survey, 71% of people in the United States attribute depression to emotional weakness. 65% of Americans attribute depression to bad parenting. 45% of Americans believe that suffering from depression is a personal choice. 43% of Americans believe that depression is incurable, and finally, 35% of Americans believe that depression is a direct consequence of leading a sinful life. In light of Men’s vulnerability to feelings of shame, it’s really no wonder that so few men seek out treatment to feel better!!
Among the many problems that depression brings to a man’s life is the inevitable demise of their relationships to their partners, girlfriends, or wives. In fact, if one person in a romantic relationship is clinically depressed, the couple is 9 times more likely to part ways or get a divorce. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve often heard the misconception that it’s a bad relationship that causes a man’s depression. However, more often than not, it’s the other way around. When A a man (or woman) suffers from clinical depression, he plays a big part in creating a bad relationship. After all, he’s more likely to be moody, irritable, prone to rages, prone to withdrawing, filled with self-loathing, filled with irrational guilt, hopeless, etc. Women, who are often more emotionally attuned to others than men are, can usually sense that the men in their life are depressed. Yet when they reach out to nurture them, their male partners often close the door on their faces. This is often because they feel so much shame and inadequacy for feeling depressed in the first place. The women, in turn, feel isolated, afraid, and abandoned.
The truth is, depression is a real illness. It has biological, psychological, social, and spiritual underpinnings to it. Men ( and women) cannot will their way out of their clinical depression. They can’t out-think it, out-wit it, or escape it by using alcohol or drugs. It’s very real, and it hurts a lot. The good news, though, is that depression is highly treatable. Men can take medication, for example, or supplements, exercise, see a Marriage and Family Therapist, participate in individual therapy, group therapy, etc. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I use all kinds of techniques and strategies to help my clients break through their depression. I also offer valuable insights and feedback to help free them from the grips of their depression. Finally, I personally know of many excellent resources that I refer them to that supplements the work that we’re doing together so that they feel healthy, happy, and whole as soon as possible.
Men, there is absolutely no shame in suffering from depression. And there is absolutely no shame in seeking help to overcome your depression and reclaim your mental health. The only shame there is, when it comes to depression, is when a man turns his back on treatment, thereby leaving himself and his loved ones behind.
John Boesky, LMFT