Challenges for Men Battling Depression

Depression can be one of the most difficult mental illnesses to diagnose – what you may think is “the blues” could be real depression – and speaking up and getting help can be especially challenging for men.

Douglas Powell first noticed something changed in him when he was 12 years old.

“I was usually a chatterbox, very loud, the loudest one in the room,” he said. “That changed a lot.”

Eighteen years later he knows he was showing signs of depression, but at the time it was a mystery.

“I had never really heard of depression before,” he said. “Didn't think it was something that could happen to me because my idea of depression was crying in a corner.”

Being young and male made it more difficult for him.

“Being a guy plays a huge factor,” he said. “It's because men feel they have to be tough, hard, stoic. Only certain emotions you're allowed to have access to.”

Up to 15 million people suffer from depression, and 6 million men are diagnosed each year.

Although men and women may sometimes have similar internal experiences, externally, it can show in very different ways, mental health professionals say.

“Men don't like to think of themselves as weak,” Dr. David Goldstein said. “Depression is an acknowledgment something is wrong. Men will unfortunately resort to substance abuse or sociopathic behavior.”

Sociopathic behavior can present as domestic violence, criminal activity or more minor incidents, said Goldstein, who has been treating patients with depression for more than 40 years.

In addition, “Men are much less likely, by a factor of 50 percent, to go for treatment,” Goldstein said.

Many men in the spotlight have been open about battling depression. Bruce Springsteen has been candid about his struggles. Winston Churchill famously referred to his depression as "the black dog." Some of his biographers have said Churchill wrote extensively to cope.

Powell did as well.

“I was able to at least get my emotions down on paper, and that helped with some of the bottling that I was doing, keeping it all inside,” he said. “Poetry definitely became an outlet for me to get these emotions out.”

He is also participating in his friend Nikki Webber Allen's documentary, which focuses on depression among millennials and people of color.

“It's something we're not talking about and certainly not talking about it in communities of color,” she said.

Raising awareness about depression became very personal for her just three years ago.

“It didn't become a passion for me until 2013 when I lost my 22-year-old nephew Paul to suicide,” she said. “He had been struggling with depression and anxiety. I'm not sure how long because he didn't talk about it.”

By talking about his depression, Powell hopes he will be able to help others.

Resources for people with depression:

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