“While in the psych unit, I made some friends. – best place to make friends, right? I made a friend called Ben*. He was a guy, early 30’s, well groomed, good looking (not better than you hubby don’t worry) and had a job and a wife. On the outside, Ben looked pretty lucky, like he had it all, but Ben tried to commit suicide. Actually, he tried it a few times. The illness of Depression hit him so hard it nearly took his life.
We opened up to each other about what we had gone through, and he had a world of pain in his heart. It was hard for him to talk, and it had been so hard for him to talk. He actually never spoke about his depression, he just wanted to disappear quietly. His wife knew what was going on, but every time she bought it up, he would dismiss it. He would deny it. He would say ‘I’m fine.’
Unfortunately, for most men, for dads, for young guys, they are conditioned to think that depression or that feelings are not something they should actively participate in. I’ve even heard the phrase from a man that ‘depression is a woman’s problem’. But it’s not, we know it’s not. We know if we cut open our brains and just have a look at it superficially, we can’t see whose brain is male, whose is female, who is suffering or who is not. Our brains look the same, and they function much the same (please don’t get technical with me anatomy nerds.) depression doesn’t discriminate, we have heard that line so many times and yet, most men won’t get help.
Ben told me that his wife went behind his back and called health professionals, she told his doctor, she let his boss know, she spoke to his family and friends. At first, he was angry with her, but with tears in his eyes he looked at me and said, ‘she went behind my back, but she saved my life.’ And she did.
When you confront a man that exhibits signs of depression, such as: withdrawal, who’s angry or irritable, doesn’t want to see his mates anymore, isolated himself, who doesn’t sleep or sleeps too much, who cradles a bottle of liquor on the couch, it can be really hard. But mostly it’s hard on him. Whatever brought him to that level of depression, and it doesn’t matter what, there is a sense of shame he feels when you ask him ‘What’s wrong with you?’
Men don’t want to open up because they don’t want to burden you, because they don’t want to feel shame, they worry they’ve failed to protect you, and they feel weak. They want it to disappear quietly. But it doesn’t and we don’t want them to disappear quietly either.
So, it’s important you tell them that and there are many things you can do to help that. Such as:
- Call his doctor, explain the symptoms, make an appointment for him. Go with him. Tell him that it’s for you so that you can feel at ease. Get him to fill out a mood questionnaire and give it to the doctors .
- Educate yourself (read about depression or anxiety)
- Write him a letter, use I statements, show him you’re not angry or blaming him and that he doesn’t need to feel guilt nor shame.
- Don’t agree with his negative thoughts.
- Don’t give him or set too many tasks for him to try to keep him busy in hopes of a recovery.
- And you don’t have to say ‘I think you’ve got depression’ – what I’ve learned when I’ve said that, that it is a big shut down for them and for you.
But don’t accept his denial. You have the right and the obligation to do as Ben’s wife did, and fight for your partners/brothers/friends’ life. He might not like it at the time, but one day he may sit with a stranger in the same boat as him and tell her that you were the person who saved his life.’
It can affect anyone, even the brave and strong.”
*name and details changed to protect identities.
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