Men and depression
I had constant negative thoughts about myself. I’d go to bed at night and I couldn’t sleep. I would stare at the roof and ruminate over things – mainly everyday stresses or thoughts that we all have, but I couldn’t switch them off. I’d end up shaking and in a lather of sweat. I’d finally get to sleep, but then I’d have to get up to go to work – so I was exhausted and tired all the time.
When I was at my worst, suicidal thoughts were a day-to-day proposition for me. I didn’t think I was ever actually going to hurt myself – but I just couldn’t stop the thoughts. I’d spend the whole day thinking about it and then at night, I’d break down and fall into a heap.”Nathan Thompson, AFL player, Herald Sun, October 2011
Here’s the problem – being depressed just isn’t ‘manly’. There’s a belief in our society that men should be strong and capable. We should not feel emotionally distressed and if we do, we certainly shouldn’t show it. We are expected to cope with stress, trauma and bereavement, never showing the ways in which it affects us.
Clearly this is pretty crazy, because we experience just as much sadness, fear and distress as women. It means that some men feel they have to shut off that part of themselves and conceal their true thoughts and feelings. With no release valve, the pressure just builds and builds.
Why is it difficult for blokes to get help for their depression?
If you’re depressed, there are two reasons why it can be so difficult to get the help you need. The first hurdle is speaking out and telling friends, family or your GP how you have been feeling. It can be pretty nerve-wracking because there is still a lot of stigma out there and it is possible that some people will judge you for saying that you need help. Fortunately, as more and more men come forward and talk about their experiences, we are gradually changing the culture. It actually isn’t so strange anymore to tell people if you’ve been struggling and to get the help you need.
The other difficulty is the challenge of talking about your thoughts and feelings with a health professional. You may think that it will be really hard to talk to your psychologist about things that perhaps you have never talked about before and don’t like to admit even to yourself. You might feel pretty uncomfortable, but it is worth it. The psychologist’s office is a safe place where you won’t be judged and what you say will stay confidential. And as psychologists, we’re good at helping you to talk about difficult things.
Things you can do
- Tell someone what you are going through. Maybe your partner, your GP, a family member or good friend. Someone you can trust to listen to you and take you seriously.
- Exercise can really help – although it is probably not something you feel like doing, if you force yourself to get active you may notice a bit of improvement in your mood.
- Talk to your GP about your treatment options.
- Exercise, diet, sleep, alcohol. These are all factors that can really affect how you feel and can be a good place to start making changes.
- Talk to a psychologist. We have a range of strategies and techniques that can help. Find out more about therapy here.