Thursday, June 7, 2007

Depression tightening its grip on the men of America

Of all the puzzling and mysterious illnesses people endure, depression has to rank toward the top of the list.

It impacts people in different ways, but for a lot of folks, it is an illness that gradually enters their lives.

It may begin with episodes of sadness or feeling blue. However, if it goes unchecked, depression can sink deep roots into a person's life.

Many times, a person may not realize the roots are deepening. Then, after a prolonged period of time, people may accept that feeling depressed is just a part of life that must be accepted.

Let's face it; we live in a difficult world with lots of adversity. Sometimes, depressed people believe what they are feeling is just a reflection of all the events they see going on around them and that they are not really sick.

Obviously, I am simplifying a very complicated subject because the illness comes in all shapes, forms, and sizes.

'Newsweek' magazine recently had a cover story on depression that specifically focused on how men deal with it in our culture.

When thinking about the characteristics of the stereotypical male in America, feeling sad or down does not fit the profile.

Unfortunately, these types of feelings are viewed as weaknesses when men talk about them. After all, our culture has gone to great lengths to develop the "strong and silent" male stereotype.

The by-product of this is that a lot of men do not talk about what is going on inside them. According to the 'Newsweek' story, psychologists greatly underestimated the number of men who suffer from this illness because of this. Some experts now believe as many as six million men suffer from depression.

Men simply do not talk about their feelings so professionals took that as meaning that depression impacts them less than women.

However, in many ways, that is quite wrong.

According to the story, over the past 50 years, men of all ages have killed themselves at four times the rate of women, depending on the age group. Additionally, adult depression as a whole is estimated to cost our economy $83 billion annually in lost productivity.

Those are some pretty incredible statistics.

I took particular interest in 'Newsweek's' story because I have struggled with depression for many years. I suffer from a chronic depression that was part of me for many years before I understood that I was sick.

Much like the people I described earlier in this column, I was sick for so long that I accepted that my bad feelings were just part of life. After all, I am an American man and keeping everything bottled up makes life easier in some ways.

Fortunately, I came to understand that I suffer from an illness, and through treatment, I now go through periods where I feel better than I ever have in my life.

I still struggle with it from time to time, but I now have a lot better understanding of it. Instead of it controlling me, I do a better job of controlling it.

Regrettably, as the 'Newsweek' story showed, there is still a stigma associated with depression. Because of the stigma, people (especially men) do not talk about it.

However, depression is like any other illness. Should an asthmatic be embarrassed because they suffer from asthma? Should a diabetic be embarrassed because they suffer from diabetes?

The answer to both questions is, obviously, no.

Perhaps men would be a little more willing to discuss this issue if they realized some others who suffered from this.

For example, President Abraham Lincoln struggled with depression through most of his life, including when he lived in the White House.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin became depressed after walking on the moon, but treatment helped him recover.

NFL Hall of Famer and television broadcaster Terry Bradshaw became ill when his marriage ended, but treatment helped him.

Legendary journalist Mike Wallace overcame a deep depression after he was sued because of one on his CBS reports.

The list of depressed men who sought treatment and improved is a lengthy one that goes on and on.

So, if you feel like you may suffer from this, go see your doctor. Depression is treatable.

Don't settle for living with the pain.


Anonymous said...

When did Newsweek run the story you refer to in your posting? Was it recent?

Chris said...

The article appeared in the February 26 issue. Since the story is less than four months old, it might still be posted on their web site.