Men scared to say they are depressed
Between societal dictates that say men should not show emotion and poor health insurance, odds stack up against them
DUBAI // Most cases of male depression are not reported because men are afraid to admit something is wrong, mental health experts say.
Globally, about 5 to 10 per cent of men are depressed but not many in the UAE seek help. Those who do tend to wait a long time first.
Dr Thoraiya Kanafani, clinical psychologist and co-owner of the Human Relations Institute and Clinics, said there was a lot of underreporting for male depression.
Men are socialised to believe they need to suppress emotional responses, she said.
They are taught they need to be tough, independent and in control.
Societal pressure makes it very difficult for men to admit they need help because they are afraid of being looked down on.
“They make statements like ‘ I’m so weak’ and ‘ I’m not strong enough’, rather than look at it from the reality that depression is a health disorder and you can’t blame a person for it,” Dr Kanafani said.
“A lot of cases aren’t diagnosed because of a bias. It’s much easier for male doctors to diagnose men with stress but not with depression.” There are many causes of depression. Those who have a family history of mental-health disorders are more at risk but social causes can be a trigger.
Employment is a big factor in depression in the UAE, as are financial difficulties, divorce, the arrival of children, marriage or work problems and substance abuse.
But biological causes such as an abnormal or reduced amount of neutron transmitters can also be a factor.
The onset of depression in men is usually between the ages of 30 and 40. Treatment depends on the severity, with some needing medication and others opting for natural remedies to relieve symptoms. Therapy is also important.
Dr Yaseen Aslam, a psychiatrist who has been working in the UAE for three years, said a lack of insurance coverage was a big problem. “We need to create more awareness and ask for better coverage,” Dr Aslam said.
“These policies discriminate against people suffering with mental disorders.
“This has a big effect on the speed at which people can recover.
“There is a lack of information and statistics regarding depression prevalence in the UAE. “We need to know the demographics of the people suffering to provide appropriate mental health services. “Thirty per cent of my patients are male and they mostly present with depression or an anxiety or panic disorder.”
Depression does not discriminate, said Dr Saliha Afridi, a clinical psychologist and managing director at Lighthouse Arabia in Dubai. “We see men from all parts of the world with depression,” she said. “The reasons for their illness might be different but they are all experiencing the same symptoms.
“Some groups will report depression more than others. Asians, South Asians, Middle Eastern and certain European countries have a harder time disclosing their feelings to others, especially a doctor.” An estimated 350 million people suffer from depression.
‘ We need to create more awareness and ask for better health coverage. Policies discriminate against people suffering with mental disorders Dr Yaseen Aslam psychiatrist
Clinical psychologist Dr Thoraiya Kanafani says a lot of cases of depression in men are not diagnosed because of bias in doctors.