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What does depression look like for men?

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Awareness around mental health is continuing to grow, and many communities are developing ways to support for individuals experiencing mental health issues brought on by the global pandemic. However, there are still cultural and social stigmas surrounding depression, particularly amongst men.

Social norms depict that men are generally told to hold in and not express their emotions, which can be compromise their emotional, physical, and mental well-being. In many cultures, many men are never taught to recognise the less typical signs of depression and those who do recognise the signs sometimes struggle to discuss their feelings or experiences in fear of being judged by others.

As a result, men experiencing difficulties with their mental health do not address feelings of depression and continue to distract themselves with busy schedules, work and often regular use of alcohol or drugs.

Men are three to four times more likely than women to commit suicide, so diagnosing depression and seeking treatment is extremely important and can save lives.

Oxfordshire Mind’s Primary Care service often acts as a ‘front door’ for many people where mental health affects their wellbeing, and engagement with secondary services is often lacking due to stigma surrounding mental health.

“I feel it is important to recognise that engaging with men and Mental Health requires a mindful approach. If we want to increase accessibility for men, we need also to be aware of cultural and societal factors which may inhibit a person.

During my time in mental health services, there is one thing that continually seems to break down barriers for men to open up and talk about mental health and that is when discussing physical activity.”

Tasai Glasgow, Oxfordshire Mind Primary Care Wellbeing Practitioner

Males access the Primary Care Service around half as much as females, in 2020, 917 (58.9%) females used the service, compared to 462 (29.7%) males.

Oxfordshire Mind have provided some information below on common symptoms of depression men may show as well as details on support for anyone experiencing these symptoms.

Physical symptoms of depression in men

It is common for men to first notice the common physical effects of depression. While depression is thought of as a mental health issue, it can also manifest in the body.

Some common physical signs of depression in men can include:

  • chest tightness
  • continuous headaches
  • racing heart, or heart palpitations
  • digestive problems like gas, diarrhoea, and constipation
  • unintended weight loss (and sometimes weight gain)
  • erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems

People experience depression in different ways but symptoms may present themselves differently in men than they do in people of other genders, which can make it harder to detect for males.

Mental symptoms of depression in men

These symptoms can alter the way a person thinks and processes information which can ultimately leads to a change in behaviour and emotions.

Some of the most common mental symptoms of depression in men include:

  • difficulties in concentrating
  • memory problems
  • anxious thought patterns
  • racing thoughts
  • sleep issues, usually difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • suicidal thoughts

Depression is most often treated with talk therapy, medications, or a combination of both. If you or anyone you know are experiencing many of the symptoms listed above, it is important to seek medical help. Talking to your GP or a healthcare professional can share insight into the cause of your depression and support you in seeking help with a treatment plan that works best for you.

A male Primary Care service user shared, “Thank you for your help and support! Any time I had an issue or question I was provided with lots of useful information about support and services I did not know was out there. The service was so helpful to me and I hope that it will help other people facing similar issues”.

The Primary Care Service has remained open throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. Support is being delivered via telephone, but face-to-face support can still be offered for those unable to speak at home due to risk of abuse or those with learning disabilities, autism or other needs that might make communication via phone challenging.

To access the Primary Care service, call the Oxfordshire Mind Information Line on 01865 247788 and request a referral to the Primary Care service. The Information Line staff member will then take some details and will refer you to the Primary Care service team.

If you are concerned with how you or someone you know are feeling and are finding it difficult to cope, please contact Oxfordshire Mind’s information line to speak to a wellbeing worker on 01865 247788 (Monday to Thursday, 9:30am to 4:30pm).

Alternatively, if you do not feel like talking on the phone, you can text into Oxfordshire Mind with your questions around mental health and wellbeing using the following number 07451 277973 (Monday to Thursday, 9am to 4pm).

Another service Oxfordshire Mind provide is Safe Haven. This offers short term, out of hours support to adults experiencing mental health crisis in Oxfordshire. We do not define what crisis is, anyone over 18 can self-refer by giving us a call.

Safe Haven remains open, and we have been here for you to provide support on the phone, which you can access Friday to Monday from 5.00pm to 9.00pm. Face to face during the Covid-19 has also remained open for those in immediate crisis which can be accessed Friday to Monday 6pm to 10pm.