Even though women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, men die by suicide 3.5x more often than their female counterparts. The statistics are staggering. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death among adults in the United States alone, with the highest rates occurring in middle-aged Caucasian men. How can we help? First, we have to understand the problem.
There are more to the statistics than first meet the eye. If women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, why are men more likely to die by suicide? The issue is hugely complex.
It’s reported that women are just as likely to attempt suicide as males. However, males are more likely to choose death by a firearm or other violent means. When suicide is tried in these ways, people often don’t have the chance to intervene. Women are more likely to attempt suicide by pharmaceutical overdose or self-mutilation, giving people more time to respond.
Seeking Mental Health Treatment
Men are less likely to seek professional treatment for mental health than women. Women make Two-thirds of mental health outpatient visits. The discrepancy in treatment rates may be because men face a stronger social stigma regarding depression or other mental health illnesses.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the condition is more prevalent than it is in men. The reason for the under-diagnosis of depression in males may be because men are more likely to report atypical symptoms.
Doctors may not recognize that a man who states he has insomnia, frequent headaches, or a change in appetite is struggling with depression.
Men are less likely to report feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or high levels of anxiety when they are asked. The misunderstanding of different symptoms in men versus women may make a depression in males more difficult to identify and treat.
The Social Stigma of Depression
Mental health has come into the spotlight recently as more people have come forward to share their stories. Still, the social stigma against those with mental health disorders persists. This stigma may be even more daunting for males.
From a young age, men are taught to be “tough” and hear phrases like “boys don’t cry.” Women are generally encouraged more to share their feelings. The result of this is that men become conditioned not to discuss their emotions, even when they’re struggling.
How to Help
The best way to help address the issue of mental health, in both men and women, is to start a dialogue surrounding the issues. Encourage your friends, family members, and colleagues to share how they are feeling. Let them know that it’s okay not to be okay.
Be aware of the way symptoms of depression manifest in men. If a man in your life begins to exhibit irritability, isolation, frequent complaints of physical discomfort or changes in weight, don’t be afraid to ask them how they’re doing. Let them know you’re there for them. If you’re a GR8 man experiencing these issues, talk to your doctor.
Come forward with your stories and share your experience with mental health. Men, talk to your friends about how you’re feeling and ask how they’re feeling. The chances are that they have experienced struggles with mental health and not vocalized it. Help break the stigma.
Seek Professional Help
If you or a loved one are struggling with feelings of depression or thoughts of self-harm, seek medical care right away. For a list of mental health treatment providers in the United States, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website. There are resources available to you.
The United States Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7 for those in crisis: 1-800-273-8255.