“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
There has been a lot of talk lately about the stigma that is put on mental illness. However, there is a certain part of this stigma that most people do not think about. As a man who fights severe depression on a daily basis, I believe that there is additional stigma put on men. ‘Man up’ is a phrase that gets thrown around quite often, and it is very stigmatizing to men with depression. Men are not immune to feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness. Unfortunately, not everyone sees this.
Throughout history, men have been expected to be strong, courageous, and motivated at all times. It was not common for a man to show emotional weakness. Historians have said that Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, fought clinical depression. Lincoln, despite his illness, was still expected to be strong 24/7. The same thing was expected from King David of Israel, who also battled depression. While these two men were able to cope with their feelings, not every man is. There was a lot more expected out of men, and there still is today.
Although the times are rapidly changing, men are still expected to put a smile on their face and suck it up. I have a job that requires me to work four hours a day for four days a week, and even that is overwhelming for me. I get depressed a lot at work, making it difficult to perform even the smallest tasks. I tell this to people, but despite it all, they say, “you should get a job that offers you more hours so that you aren’t depressed.” My situation may apply to other men as well.
Studies show that more women deal with depression as opposed to men, but I believe that there are a great amount of male cases that are unheard. The stigma placed on male depression makes it feel embarrassing for men to cry out for help. Men are afraid to reach out, and who can blame them? Sometimes, it seems scary and pointless for me to reach out to people for help, because I know what they’re going to tell me: ‘get over it and be a man’. It is not that easy for anyone to just simply get over it, and it’s no different for men.
It’s no secret that most people who have battled (and still battle) depression want to help others with the same problems. I was one of the several admins for a depression and anxiety support group on Facebook. At the time, I am the only male on the admin team. Even through my volunteer work, I see the effects that the stigma has on men with depression. If men were not shamed for having a mental illness, we could have a lot more people fighting the stigma.
It is never too late to change the way we think. If you see a man struggling with depression or any other mental illness, show him the way to help and let him know that there is no shame in feeling the way he does. The only way we are going to defeat this stigma is to not give it fuel. I am one of the many men who battle depression, and I am damn proud to be who I am. Are you? Remember this, men: admitting that you are sad, confused, or hopeless does not make you any less of a man. If anything, you are more of a man for facing your demons.