The disturbing reality of the world we live in today is that many of us have, directly or indirectly, experienced the devastating impact of depression-related suicide. While we are trying to work through these traumas, many have to contemplate the incomprehensible answer to the question: “Why?”
Suicide, in all its forms, is often the last resort in dealing with depression. This is a battle that can last for weeks, months, or even years…and usually takes place in the secret shadows of the mind, where it can rage unnoticed.
Depression is a relentless enemy, and if left untreated, it will exert constant pressure. Hopelessness, worthlessness, grief, apathy, and isolation are some of the destructive emotions that depressed people can experience.
Too many Idahoans have lost this battle, and sadly, the data illustrates a particularly troubling trend among adult males. Since June is National Men’s Health Month, it’s important that we all understand how to help the men in our lives who may be struggling with depression and thoughts of self-harm.
As a military veteran and in my work as a peer support professional and recovery coach, I have personally experienced and witnessed the effects of undiagnosed and untreated depression. Sometimes the news of a suicide attempt or the completion of an act can take us by surprise. Remember, just because someone wears it well doesn’t mean it’s not heavy.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about six million men suffer from depression each year. Unfortunately, men choose more lethal methods when attempting suicide, and commit suicide two to four times more often than women. Yet we know that men are much less likely to seek professional help for depression or other mental health issues.
But the American Psychological Association argues that the traditional signs of depression — sadness, worthlessness, excessive guilt — may not align with how many men express depression.
Instead, fatigue, irritability, anger, lack of interest in work or hobbies, insomnia, increased alcohol/drug use, and even overtime may be more common indicators of clinical depression in men. Among older men, it may be harder for doctors to recognize depression when the man has complex medical diagnoses, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or a stroke.
Our best chance to reduce the damage caused by depression is to recognize the disease and find a cure. It starts with the realization that you or someone close to you is going through something that seems somewhat “wrong” or may have changed in some way. This realization can only be achieved through open, honest and courageous communication with a loved one or through personal self-reflection.
If you think the man in your life is struggling with depression, help him find a mental health professional or talk to a doctor about his symptoms. Men may want to talk to a doctor about physical issues and gradually discuss mental health.
You may also decide that you want to ask your PCP about Peer Services. Peer services are a huge resource available to people who are struggling with depression. A peer support specialist is a person recovering from their own mental illness and can often help create meaningful connections through sharing experiences. Leading by example in recovery and inspiring hope, they can provide unique support and guidance through a non-clinical peer-to-peer approach.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of harming yourself, call the Idaho Crisis and Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255 or text 208-398-4357. To learn more about the signs of depression and find free tips on how to help, visit Hello Idaho! at optumidaho.com.