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Detecting depression in men

Male depression: an obscure, hidden problem

by Philippe Roy (05/01/2012)
Depression has long been more readily associated with women because, for some, "real men don't get depressed". This belief is addressed in an Australian initiative to battle depression, which reflects an international trend: health promotion campaigns that challenge traditional male norms. Why? For the simple reason that men who are more traditional and rigid in terms of gender roles are more at risk of depression and suicide. Furthermore, they are more difficult to reach through services.

Women and men suffering from depression do not experience two completely separate realities. However, the way they express and, above all, hide their depression differs greatly not only between both sexes, but among men themselves, since they are not a homogeneous group. Despite using gender-based analysis, depression in men remains unknown or invisible, even though a significant proportion of people who have committed suicide showed symptoms of depressive disorder in the days before acting out. Three to four times more men than women commit suicide. In 2009 alone, 830 men and 233 women committed suicide in Quebec, the equivalent of 16 school buses filled to capacity. If 16 bus crashes killing all passengers occurred in a single year, the Minister of Transport would likely be on high alert and all buses in the province would be immobilized and thoroughly inspected. But these tragedies remain occulted. Despite alarming evidence-based data, the specificity of male depression and the urgency for concern must constantly be demonstrated. Efforts to better understand male depression are essential to suicide prevention.

Instead of focusing on problems, we must learn more about positive aspects of masculinity that can facilitate intervention, as well as identify men's strengths and abilities most likely to restore their social functioning and mental health. This file provides an overview of the specificity of male depression and of intervention methods. It stresses the importance of considering gender in research, intervention and training.

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