Get us around a bbq with a drink, or to the footy and we can’t shut up. But when it comes to talking about feeling down, then we’re well know for clamming up and keeping things to ourselves.
On average, one in eight Australian men will experience depression and one in five will suffer anxiety at some point in their life.
Going it alone when you are down is natural for us, but not tackling these symptoms can lead to an escalation into depression or anxiety. This is not ideal as depression left untreated can ultimately lead to suicide. At double the national road toll, of the average 8 daily suicides in Australia, 6 of those are men.
Recognising and admitting to yourself that you need help and effectively managing your mental health can lift you out of the danger zone, improve your quality of life and help with the relationships with your family and mates.
Signs and Symptoms
If you are experiencing prolonged periods of feeling down, irritable or even angry for no reason, it’s important to have a chat to a mate, your partner or even a GP about how you are feeling.
It doesn’t come easy for us. It’s probably down to the long entrenched social norms that a real man is silent and strong. “Suck it up & be a man” might sound all too familiar, but can be harmful if it suppresses the fact that we aren’t doing so well and should be reaching out for the support we need when we’re struggling.
Everyone feels angry, sad or down from time to time. That’s perfectly normal and nothing to worry about.
however if you have been feeling sad, miserable, angry or constantly irritated for more that a couple of weeks, you may be showing early signs of depression.
Physical symptoms are often easier to spot in Men than the emotional ones. Feeling tired all the time for no aparent reason, or stacking on or losing weight more than normal can also be a sign.
We’re also more likely to experience irritability or anger for extended periods, rather that just feeling down or sad.
You may also lose interest in the things you previously loved to do, like socialising, sports, walking the dog, going fishing, playing golf etc. Feeling like you just can’t be bothered is a classic symptom that the black dog is paying you a visit.
The good news is that depression is treatable and there are simple things you can do to make a start. <link here to Depression Page>
Most blokes experience stress. It’s part of life, whether it is work pressure, financial pressure, family expectations or one off events that take you out of your comfort zone. This is normal and part of life, the stress ebbs and flows.
Anxiety on the other hand is a much different beast. If you are constantly worried or in fear that something terrible or catastrophic is about to happen, these feelings can compound to the point where simple everyday activities can feel like a threat or impending disaster.
You see catastrophes around every corner, despite the fact that no threat or danger actually exists.
Anxiety is all consuming, disruptive and lingers even when the perceived disaster situation has passed without incident. It can manifest as panic attacks, insomnia or just a constant sensation of being on edge all the time.
You can read more about anxiety and what you can do about it here.
What you can do.
A lot of blokes will have a hard time talking about this stuff. For centuries the myth that not feeling strong or in control is a sign of weakness has been reinforced.
It’s not true !
If you are in the grips of anxiety or depression, you can’t just “get a grip” or “pull yourself together” or “snap out of it”. Anxiety and depression are just like any other medical condition, you need help and an action plan to manage your recovery and get better.
If you broke your arm, you wouldn’t have a crack at fixing it yourself. You wouldn’t keep quiet about it and hope it went away. Anxiety and Depression can creep up on you exactly the same way broken arms don’t, however the principle is the same, the more help you get, the sooner it will be fixed and you will be on the road to recovery.
Reach out to a family member, mate or co-worker.
The first step is to start letting someone you trust know that you are in a bit of strife. Unloading and getting things off your chest and knowing that other people are aware that you aren’t ok can go a long way to lightening the load and improving how you are feeling.
Just let them know about your feelings, or how you’re angry or irritated the whole time for no reason or you just can’t be bothered with the things you used to enjoy.
If you are not comfortable with family or mates and all your co-workers can’t be trusted then :
Talk to your GP
A GP is a great source of information and will be trained in recognising whether you have depression or anxiety. If you don’t have a regular GP, go and find one. You can talk to them about how you are feeling and they will assess the type and scale of your illness and create a management plan.
They will most likely have various health professionals on hand or in their network that can help you get on track.
A Gp is an ideal person to help you create an action plan to combat and manage your depression or anxiety.
An action plan would typically contain things like writing down what you would like to do to make positive changes, exercise, sleep improvement, stress management and maybe working with a psychologist who can help you tackle negative thinking and how to deal with relationships
Making a safety plan:
If you are having suicidal thoughts or feeling, then working with someone you trust on a suicide safety plan is essential.
The plan will have a number of steps that you need to follow whenever you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts. The plan will get you to a safe place.
Beyond Blue’s Beyond Now will help you create a safety plan.
For some men who are unable to improve their depression with other treatment plans, then medication is available. If your depression or anxiety is severe and not improving, then seek the help of a doctor who will be able to assist in prescribing medication where appropriate to manage your illness.
Alcohol & Drugs
Drinking Alcohol or taking drugs to try and make the anxiety or depression go away is not a good idea. These will almost always make the symptoms of depression and anxiety much worse over the long term.