By Sheryl Kelly, M.A.
A lot of men are socialized to be strong all of the time, be totally self-reliant and not show their feelings. Other than anger, the experience or expression of emotion may lead a man to feel weak or inferior, and not much of a man. As a result, many men keep their feelings to themselves, which allows them to maintain a sense of control. But there is a downside to this strategy.
On the campus of Kalamazoo College, men make up approximately 40% of the population, but only 25% of the men at K seek services at the counseling center. Men are less likely to go for help because going for help means they are not self reliant and are weak. Unfortunately, choosing not to acknowledge one’s feelings does not make them disappear. As a matter of fact, stuffing one’s feeling lead to the loss of control that men wish so hard to avoid.
Depression is an illness that affects both women and men. However, men are likely to hide feelings of sadness, guilt, worthlessness and hopelessness because of their desire to appear strong and secure. However the longer one goes without acknowledging their feelings, the more severe and disabling the depression begins. So instead of feelings of depression, depressed men may be more irritable and aggressive, which results in their depression not being recognized, and, of course, not going for help doesn’t get them the treatment they need. Unfortunately hiding their depression can be more deadly for men, as they are four times more likely to commit suicide then women.
Even though many men may feel an obligation to maintain their role of protector and strong care taker, it is important for men to take care of themselves if they wish to maintain this role. In the event that you are experiencing some feelings of depression: including (having a depressed mood most of the day, nearly everyday; loss of interest in activities that used to be pleasurable; feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt; recurrent thoughts of death), talk to a friend, a close relative, or a counselor. Man, you do not have to deal with this alone. Treatment is available and it works! Real men do ask for help!