June is Men(tal)’s Health Month
Sitting with depression doesn’t sound like a pleasant way to spend your days. In fact, it is not a healthy way to live.
According to Mental Health America, male depression often goes undiagnosed, as men are more likely to “report fatigue, irritability, loss of interest in work or hobbies, rather than feelings of sadness or worthlessness.”
Men’s mental health is important and should be taken seriously. However, many men may wait to seek treatment. MHA reports that “men are less likely than women to seek help for depression, substance abuse and stressful life events due to social norms, a reluctance to talk and/or downplaying symptoms.”
“Traditionally, we men are awful at talking about our overall emotional well-being, and feelings in general. We’re ‘good,’ we generally reply when asked. We’re ‘fine,’” writes Andy Riggs, AFSP advocate, morning radio host, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Even though, according to the latest available numbers, men die by suicide 3.63 times more often than women. 70% of all suicides are men.”
That’s why it is so important to identify mental health challenges like depression before they become too big to handle.
June: bringing awareness to men’s mental health
There is a big difference between everyday stresses and a diagnosable mental illness. Yet, it may not always be easy to tell the difference – and it is important to men’s mental health to find out.
As the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) points out: “there’s no easy test that can let someone know if there is mental illness or if actions and thoughts might be typical behaviors of a person or the result of a physical illness.”
And according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):
“While mental illnesses affect both men and women, the prevalence of mental illnesses in men is often lower than women. Men with mental illnesses are also less likely to have received mental health treatment than women in the past year. … Recognizing the signs that you or someone you love may have a mental disorder is the first step toward getting treatment. The earlier that treatment begins, the more effective it can be.”
Don’t wait: Talk about your symptoms
There are common signs of mental illness in both men and women. For example, NIMH’s website says that warning signs could include:
- “Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness
- Noticeable changes in mood, energy level, or appetite
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Difficulty concentrating, feeling restless, or on edge
- Increased worry or feeling stressed
- Misuse of alcohol and/or drugs
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts”
For a complete list of warning signs, visit NIMH’s website.
If any of these symptoms are recognizable in yourself or others – and present on a consistent basis for more than two weeks – seeking treatment for mental health from a healthcare professional may be the next step.
Don’t wait: Seek treatment
“As guys, many of us have been conditioned to believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness. This is why men are known for never stopping to ask for directions, or not reading the instructions when we put together the IKEA bunkbed unless we ABSOLUTELY need to, because we don’t want to be perceived as weak,” writes Riggs on the ASFP website. “Here’s the thing, my friend. Asking for help is a HUGE sign of strength.”
If you are not sure where to start, a primary care provider may be able to help. They can screen you for depression or anxiety and determine an appropriate course of treatment.
If you are uncomfortable approaching your primary care provider, there are a lot of mental health resources available. For example, NAMI offers several support groups through its website and a convenient way to find a local chapter. ASFP has a page devoted to having a “#RealConvo with the people in your life.” The Depression and Bipolar Alliance’s (DBSA) website includes resources to get and give support.
GeneSight Mental Health Monitor: What you should consider
Treatment for mental health challenges comes in all shapes and sizes, so to speak.
Treatment can include medication, talk therapy, alternative treatments or a combination. Talk therapy may help patients to address negative thoughts and feelings. Medication therapy – like taking antidepressants – cannot cure depression, but may “help reduce symptoms of depression,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
Yet, many men remain reluctant to take medication for mental health conditions. The spring 2022 GeneSight Mental Health Monitor national survey found a precipitous drop from those men who said they would be willing to take medication for physical health conditions vs mental health conditions:
Taking psychiatric medication (42%) and seeing a psychologist, therapist or counselor (34%) were the top two actions men diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety found most helpful in relieving their symptoms, according to GeneSight Mental Health Monitor survey.
The GeneSight Psychotropic test analyzes how your genes may affect medication outcomes. Results can inform your doctor about how you may break down or respond to certain medications commonly prescribed to treat depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other psychiatric conditions.
Don’t wait if you have mental health concerns
Men may have a hard time admitting they need help or struggle with mental health, but they shouldn’t let societal expectations or the perception of needing to seem strong stop them from getting the help they need.
“There is certainly this mindset that a lot of men have that it’s complaining, its whining, also I don’t want people to think that I’m crazy, I can deal with this on my own there’s a lot of those thoughts and belief systems that interfere with reaching out and seeking help,” Dr. Nicholas Beck with Vive Greenville told Fox Carolina.
If you or someone you know is struggling, don’t wait to seek the help you need.
“It’s important that guys realize that fighting depression is the same as fighting any other health issue and that seeing a doctor is a good first step,” Joshua Beharry, mental health advocate and Project Coordinator of HeadsUpGuys, a British Columbia-based campaign to support men who have depression, in an email interview with TalkSpace. “It may be a bit intimidating or stressful the first couple times but it’s wort h doing if you’re unsure about your health or what’s going on.”
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Our articles are for informational purposes only and are reviewed by our Medical Information team, which includes PharmDs, MDs, and PhDs. Do not make any changes to your current medications or dosing without consulting your healthcare provider.
The GeneSight test must be ordered by and used only in consultation with a healthcare provider who can prescribe medications. As with all genetic tests, the GeneSight test results have limitations and do not constitute medical advice. The test results are designed to be just one part of a larger, complete patient assessment, which would include proper diagnosis and consideration of your medical history, other medications you may be taking, your family history, and other factors.
If you are a healthcare provider and interested in learning more about the GeneSight test, please call us at 855.891.9415. If you are a patient, please talk with your doctor to see if the GeneSight test may be helpful.