Depression doesn’t Discriminate: Why Men Feel it Too
I don’t know if you know this, but depression was once thought of as a woman’s disease. Doctors believed that women were the only ones to suffer from breakdowns, meltdowns, and rejection. Maybe it’s because we have been considered as the weaker sex.
However, the reality is that depression affects just as many men as women. And in recent surveys (in the US), it has been brought to light that, increasingly, more men are accepting the fact that they are suffering from depression, and they’re owning up to it. But what I really want to know is, what brings a man to depression? And is depression in Trinbagonian men addressed, or brushed off with fatigue and ol’ talk from friends?
Last week, I stumbled into a slip-of-the-heart affair, and was staring down the barrel of a possible two-day depression. Yuh know, like a mini tabanca. But with the powers of my girlfriend circle, I quickly snapped out of it by discussing the problem. Each one gave their solution on how they would handle it, and though one solution would have landed me a night in jail, it all helped me to ‘catch’ myself and carry on.
But men? They doh like to talk. They hate to admit when they are fragile. Being vulnerable is a sign of weakness for them. They feel they can carry the world of stress on their shoulders, backs and minds. So by the time it piles up, one on top the other, they buckle and boom… all kinda ting comes crashin’ down. But as the few of my friends pointed out to me, their bouts of depression stem from pretty much the same things we women let tangle up our hearts and minds. So, I reached out to a few of my male friends to find out what really makes a man slip into a ‘low’ period.
After a few jokes that depression kicks in when Chelsea playin’ Manchester United, and the cable company decides to break down, or when sex with your girlfriend has gone ‘bad’, the discussion got serious (because football can’t really be why man does get depressed; it may possibly be grounds, but not serious enough for this article). “Not having a job, a decent job, or a career can make a man depressed.” That was an answer from two of my boys. My other friend chimed in saying that for him: “It’s most depressing knowing that you can’t properly provide for your family. To know your kids want stuff and you can’t give it to them. That can make a man end up in a psychiatric ward”.
I felt his every word pinch me in my heart. As a single mother, those are the same issues that pound my mind daily. It takes hard work to keep a household together, and even harder work when all the ends don’t meet. And of course, a man is still considered as the breadwinner, the provider, the head of the household, and our protector. That a heavy load to carry, so not being able to fulfil this role in its entirety can lead a man to depression.
But what about the intricate matters of the heart? Like love. Like his woman not being responsive to his romantic gestures. Or when his woman leaves him for another man. Other than getting angry, does a man cry at some point? Does he stop eating and stay locked up inside his room? Does he get the urge to look at himself and feel he’s not handsome enough? Do these things cause a man to feel depressed the same way a woman will take it on when her boyfriend/lover/husband disregards her feelings?And how do they manifest themselves?
In the U.S., depression is taken quite seriously. There are trails of psychologists, therapists, group sessions, books, and pills being advertised to help deal with depression. Women are more likely willing to try to deal with an emotional breakdown. But of late, more men are more willing to address their depressed state, as opposed to holding steadfast to the ‘cave-man’ concept that’s been blue printed for them. They no longer hang on to the concept that it’s a weak trait to confront emotions.
But is it the same in Trinidad and Tobago? Are Trini men in touch with their sensitive side, and self-aware enough to know when they’re spiralling into depression? Back in the day, a man going through a tabanca would get serious heckle from his friends. So to avoid being the joke amongst men, most times you’d hear of the man going mad, and or committing suicide depending on the seriousness of the breakup. And it is quite possible that depression due to a love gone wrong went unaddressed, because it was, and still is, such a common thing that men don’t talk through in our culture.
We might buss jokes about tabanca, but a 1985 study – “An Indigenous Conceptualization of Reactive Depression in Trinidad” – by R. Littlewood, dubs tabanca as being the equivalent to depression, and we all know that a serious tabanca could render us seriously depressed.
Tabanca is just one aspect of a serious cause for male depression, but grouped with other factors mentioned above, and countless other reasons, like the death of a family member or health problems, depression is definitely real for men. But with platforms like International Men’s Day, and a wealth of information on the Internet, awareness of male, mental health issues seems to have come a long way from ‘back in the day’.
One might be tempted to say that men are better able to help bridge the gap between the stigma of what it is to be a man, and confronting what they go through when their manhood is threatened. But are they? Studies show that men are at a greater risk of their depression going unrecognized, because they won’t admit how they feel or because they’d rather say, “I’m irritable or angry”, rather than admit they’re feeling ‘low’ or depressed.
A more recent study in 2006 – “Adolescent Depression in Trinidad and Tobago” – by HD Maharajh, shows that depression begins from as early as adolescence in Trinbagonian men. This latest study indicates that there’s an increased awareness of depression in Trinbagonian men, and that there are more effective ways to deal with it.
So how can you tell if a man is depressed or not? With women you can tell, because, most times, we wear our hearts on our sleeves. But it’s been said that when men are depressed, they blame others and the world for their shortcomings. They get angry and will most likely lash out at others, rather than themselves. Most men also turn to drugs or alcohol to help deal with their depression, which leads to an even bigger problem.
And a problem it is, one that seems to have been hush-hush for a long time, especially in our society. So recognizing it is still pretty much new to many of us. Depression in a man is not something we’re accustomed to, but definitely should be aware of. My boys helped me to see that there are common factors in our reasons for developing depression, but we also realized that there is a big difference in how we handle it. Depression doesn’t discriminate, so while we may think that we (women) are alone in feeling inadequate, men suffer from feeling inferior too, with the key difference being that they don’t seem to be as open with their emotions.
It’s a new era, and we’re well equipped to get past the cultural stigma that male depression is a weakness. The question is, is the average Trini guy willing to let close ones know when he’s spiralling into depression? Do you think our society can be more vocal about depression and ways to deal with it?