Know A Man Struggling With Depression Or Anxiety? Here’s How To Help
While mental health impacts people regardless of gender or sex, today we are focusing specifically on the mental health challenges that men face and how we can better support them.
Are men really in need? Yes. Old, gendered beliefs around men needing to always be “strong” and that they should keep their problems to themselves have prevented many guys from asking for help. Among Canadians of all ages, four of every five suicides are male. The silence around depression and anxiety is gravely harming our husbands, boyfriends, brothers, uncles, nephews, colleagues, and friends.
Understanding Depression & Anxiety In Men
For many men, depression and anxiety often shows up in the body. Physical complaints like headaches, changes in sleep (insomnia or suddenly sleeping 10 or more hours a night), sore jaw, back pain, racing heart, and digestive issues can be signs of mental health struggles.
Changes in behaviour are another sign, things like increased drinking or substance about, isolation, spending hours playing video games, sudden mood swings, or becoming very irritable are also indicators of depression and anxiety. Notice anything like this with a man in your life? Your support could help him to confront the issue and give him the needed strength to start his recovery process.
When Is A Man Most Likely To Become Depressed Or Anxious?
While depression and anxiety can hit at any time, specific situations can trigger someone who is already vulnerable. The loss of a job or retirement can be devastating for a man, as so often identity and self worth is tied up with being a provider, and the stress from losing income as the primary breadwinner is very real. Divorce can be devastating, especially if custody is lost, add to that the dismissive way people disregard the serious emotional impact of divorce and loss of custody for a father, and the experience can be quite isolating.
Postpartum depression is something that can also impact men. Becoming a new father, losing sleep, and the pressures of learning how to parent can impact a man significantly, triggering severe anxiety or depression. Another situation is the diagnosis of a serious illness, or physically limiting injury.
Often the pressure to be strong in the face of something as frightening as surgery, painful treatments, or having to use an assisted mobility device can cause the mental health of a man to break down in a number of different ways. It’s during these times that outside support is especially important.
How To Offer Support To A Man Who You See Is Struggling
Men may find it difficult to open up unprompted, but if you make the space, you could discover they are willing to have a conversation depending on your approach. Timing and environment are important factors to consider when bringing up this topic. Weekends work well, or any time when they are not gearing up for the day, or exhausted from work or school. Often it is easier for men to open up when they don’t have to look directly at you, talking while washing up dishes, going for a hike, or even pulling weeds in the garden can work great.
Remember to speak in a way that is non blaming, tell them you’ve noticed they are struggling, that you care about them, and you want to offer support. If they try to dismiss you with a “don’t worry, I’m fine” let them know that you ARE worried, and that they matter too much to you to simply let them go on suffering alone.
Listen and try not to interrupt if he decides to open up, give non verbal encouragement like nodding your head while he talks. Ask him if he’d be okay with you researching some therapists to meet with, or if he’d like you to arrange an appointment with his primary physician. If he is resistant, drop the topic for the moment. Communicating through email is another method worth trying. Tell him you’ve noticed he’s struggling, that you care, then share a few links to therapist profiles on Psychology Today. Try sharing links to websites that are specifically geared towards men’s mental health struggles, a great one is Heads Up Guys. Our online therapy clinic also offers specialized mental health support for men.
Often one of the hardest things for men suffering with mental health challenges is feeling unseen and isolated in their pain. Knowing that someone cares about them, and has noticed their struggle can be the motivating factor in them reaching out for support. It takes courage to ask for help, and it also requires bravery to tell someone they need help. If you’re about to do that for someone you care about, we are sending our support and thanks to you.