De­pres­sion rates for men on rise in re­ces­sion

The Covington News - - Classified - Dr. Kir­ven Week­ley is a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist with of­fices in Cov­ing­ton and Nor­cross. He spe­cial­izes in the eval­u­a­tion and treat­ment of adults for de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety, re­la­tion­ship prob­lems and med­i­cal is­sues. He can be reached at ( 770) 4419244.

If you look at gen­der dif­fer­ences for treat­ment of de­pres­sion, by far women have out­num­bered men. It has been a well-known fact in the men­tal health field that when it comes to de­pres­sion, there are many more women than men seek­ing treat­ment. But ac­cord­ing to Boadie Dun­lop, a psy­chi­a­trist at Emory Univer­sity, the re­ces­sion may be chang­ing these odds.

Com­ment­ing in the Bri­tish Jour­nal of Psy­chi­a­try on re­search he is cur­rently un­der­tak­ing on de­pres­sion, Dr. Dun­lop re­marked about the sur­prise he ex­pe­ri­enced when re­cruit­ing sub­jects for his study. He ad­ver­tised his re­search on lo­cal sports ra­dio shows and was sur­prised at the num­ber of re­sponses he re­ceived from men. “ We were re­ally im­pressed with the num­ber of men com­ing in with de­pres­sion re­lated to em­ploy­ment or mar­i­tal con­flict,” he stated.

Dun­lop re­counted that many of the dis­cus­sions with study vol­un­teers re­marked on the many so­cial and cul­tural changes tak­ing place in tra­di­tional gen­der roles that may put men at in­creas­ingly higher risk of de­vel­op­ing de­pres­sion. The cur­rent re­ces­sion brought many of those is­sues to a head. Down­siz­ing and higher un­em­ploy­ment rates point to the demise of man­u­fac­tur­ing and la­bor-in­ten­sive jobs. These jobs have tra­di­tion­ally been held by men. Of the jobs lost in the cur­rent down­turn, about 75 per­cent be­longed to men. Tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances and out­sourc­ing to coun­tries with lower man­ual la­bor costs have forced more men than women out of work. Men have tra­di­tion­ally car­ried the role of the fam­ily bread­win­ner, so un­em­ploy­ment hits them par­tic­u­larly hard, low­er­ing their self-es­teem and in­creas­ing the risk of de­pres­sion.

At the same time that men are los­ing their jobs, there is a cul­tural shift in so­ci­etal norms about the male im­age. The im­age of the stoic bread­win­ner is evolv­ing to a more re­al­is­tic model of a fam­ily mem­ber who is as prone to emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal stress as any other fam­ily mem­ber. While this change makes it a lit­tle eas­ier for men to talk about their ex­pe­ri­ence, it is likely to lead to a bump in the in­ci­dence rates for de­pres­sion among men.

Women have his­tori- cally been twice as likely to have de­pres­sion as men for rea­sons both bi­o­log­i­cal and so­ci­etal. Dif­fer­ences in hor­mone me­tab­o­lism ac­counts for some of women’s bi­o­log­i­cal risks for de­pres­sion. Cul­tur­ally, girls have higher rates of abuse than boys, a fac­tor that en­hances rates for de­pres­sion among women. They have been con­fronted with so­ci­etal bar­ri­ers to pro­fes­sional self-ful­fill­ment that have had neg­a­tive in­flu­ences on self-im­age and self­es­teem. How­ever, as more men share the role of pri­mary earner in the house­hold, or re­lin­quish that role to their wives, they may suf­fer the same in­sults to their sense of self that women have of­ten had. And as more men take on child-rear­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, they may feel in­ad­e­quate and over­whelmed, lay­ing the ground­work for de­pres­sion.

“ Men are go­ing to be tak­ing on these roles, some by choice and some will have it forced on them,” says Dun­lop. “ How well will they be able to adapt, and how well we are able to help them if they have trou­bles with those roles?”

Some high-pro­file men have stepped for­ward about their de­pres­sion, mak­ing it a lit­tle eas­ier for the rest of the gen­der to ac­knowl­edge their un­hap­pi­ness, men like Mike Wal­lace and John Cleese. But it is still very dif­fi­cult for most men to ad­mit to feel­ing over­whelmed and out of con­trol. “ To be de­pressed, to feel over­whelmed and not mo­ti­vated to do things, are signs that have had the stigma at­tached to them of men­tal weak­ness,” says Dun­lop. “ And men tra­di­tion­ally have felt that they should just over­come them and snap out of it.”

To help health care work­ers treat­ing men, Dun­lop states that the first step is ac­knowl­edg­ing the se­ri­ous eco­nomic and so­ci­etal changes that neg­a­tively ef­fect men’s self-es­teem. Fam­ily physi­cians and other non-men­tal health spe­cial­ists are en­cour­aged to ask male pa­tients how they are cop­ing with the eco­nomic down­turn and whether the fi­nan­cial crises has caused changes in the fam­ily. “ A gen­eral in­quiry about how you are get­ting by can open the door to how his role has changed, and whether he is find­ing things tough go­ing,” says Dun­lop.

DR. KIR­VEN WEEK­LEY

COLUM­NIST

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