To me, as a female entrepreneur, this may be taboo but here it goes: I think men are often ignored in the health and wellness space. I feel responsible for empowering men and women, alike. And while I am fortunate to be among a group of fellow women providers, many treat women exclusively. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find male providers to refer our clients, especially in the behavioral health world. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to find any available provider in the mental health world who is accepting new clients.
I met John Harrison recently but have known of him for some time. Other male counselors I had previously met were a little stuffy and extremely professorial. John is professorial without being stuffy. He’s intelligent and has the slightest hint of military demeanor which I imagine bodes well with male clients. Likewise, he’s empathetic but not delicate. I get the sense he’d tell you how it is if needed.
In my opinion, providers are best at treating the conditions they’ve experienced themselves. That said, John’s practice is dedicated to helping men work through the everyday struggles that all men experience. He doesn’t put on some bravado or authoritative cap. Quite the opposite, John is pure as they come.
I am beyond thrilled to have John on the blog talking to men. In an effort to welcome more men and share matters of importance, this is a good one. Depression and pain go hand and hand–hoping this is an eye-opener for some of our male followers.
Why Don’t Men Talk About Their Depression?
In fact, we know that it’s one of the most common mental health issues men experience. According to research data from the American Psychological Association, around 30% of men have experienced at least one significant episode of depression in their lives. I would argue that number is even higher given that many men don’t even know what depression feels like. Or that they experience it so often they don’t consider it depression. Basically, it’s safe to say that men underreport their depression and depressive symptoms.
But, if this is true, why do men underreport their depression?
Popular thought suggests men don’t tell others they are depressed because they are “afraid of being seen as weak”. I do think that there is truth to this line of thinking but there’s more to the story.
It’s true that men are generally averse to admitting weakness. But there’s something else going on when it comes to men telling other people they are depressed. Men can be fixers. Problem solvers. What do we do with depression and with feelings? Can they be fixed? Men are analyzers and want to solve depression? We want to know if that problem can be fixed. And what about men being considerate to others? Do they feel like they are burdening other people with their problems? I say yes.
From my personal and professional experience in working with men dealing with depression, men simply don’t know what to do with depressed feelings. And if they don’t know what to do with them, why bother burdening the people they love? Why tackle a problem that might not be able to be solved? If someone has always “just felt that way” and doesn’t know there are other ways to experience life, why explore a problem that, in their eyes, can’t be solved?
How many times have we heard a story about a man not wanting to ask for directions?
Maybe this describes your dad or husband. Reminder, men like to solve problems. With depression, it’s not that simple. Depression is not something to be solved. First, we have to experience it on a body level. Actually, go inward and allow ourselves to acknowledge what we are physically feeling. There is often resistance to accepting that we are depressed because of the consequence of considering it. Other thoughts and feelings may come up when we begin to reconcile our depression.
Depression in the root of it’s meaning is about something within being “held down”
The question begs: what are we holding down? Feelings, aspirations, needs, and desires? Men sometimes struggle in communicating their wants and needs in general. Additionally, there is often a shared nature of depression. Men commonly “carry” depression passed down from a parent. Fathers unconsciously pass down depressed behavior to their sons. A son unconsciously carries that depression from his father because he loves him and cares about him. He assumes emotional responsibility for his father’s depressed mood and internalizes it. Boys learn to “be men” by adopting masculine gender characteristics. These characteristics can include analyzing, solving, fixing, being strong, not sharing, and not being emotional. Key aspects of a boy’s innate self are depressed to keep their family unit intact, to fulfill expected family and social roles.
This is how depression is passed.
So what can men do if depression is not to be solved or fixed?
The simple solution is also hard.
- Sharing with others and expressing self goes a long way.
- Sharing with other men about common struggles and experiences is healing.
- Building camaraderie with other men, finding purpose through values, and allowing self to be authentic are key.
Inside every depressed man is a boy who wants to be loved, cherished, appreciated, and accepted. Men need to learn how to love and appreciate those innate parts of self. Dare I say, men need to give themselves some love and acceptance. And they can start by accepting and owning their own depression. When men do this, their partners will appreciate it, their kids will benefit, and they, themselves, will be on the road to healing.
Check out this video from John discussing this topic and their Facebook page here.
About the author:
John Harrison, LPCC is the founder of Life Made Conscious. He is a licensed professional clinical counselor and a certified Relational Life Therapist but you also might call him an awareness builder, a “no bullshitter”, and a relationship coach. John received his master’s degree in mental health counseling at the University of Cincinnati. He is a former Army officer with experience in mentoring people in maximizing their potential through their strengths and weaknesses.