In Canada, four women engage therapy concerning depression for every one man, and yet the CMHA reports that four men commit suicide for every one woman. Our culture brings many men to believe that vulnerable is a liability, and thus never admit to others, or sometimes even themselves, that they are depressed. Understand the social situation that men are placed in concerning mental health, and you can contribute to lowering the barriers to mental health for thousands of men across Canada.
An Evolutionary Reality
Its a simple fact of our evolutionary heritage that men compete. In an evolutionary sense, after childbirth, men are ‘expendable’. For a newborn in the paleolithic period, you can lose your father and still survive yourself, but without a mother your odds are small. Men cannot breastfeed children, so as a father it is a better strategy to protect your genes by protecting and providing for your children and their mother.
This is why among our hunter-gatherer ancestors, men were predominantly hunters, and women gatherers. In an age before medicine, ‘gathering’ was a low risk way to eat, though it also had lower reward. Hunting was high-risk, so men would hunt as if they died, there was still a very legitimate chance their kids would live. If they succeeded however, the results were massive. In terms of calories, scrounged grain and berries simply cannot compete with meat, even moreso through the winter.
So what does this have to do with depression and men?
Human beings have a long-evolved heritage, stretching way back to the paleolithic period, that emphasizes the virtue of strength in hunters, and therefore (generally) men. Our societies, civilizations, and technologies have evolved far faster than our bodies have, so even though there is no pragmatic need for a man that can hunt anymore, our brains still tell us to value that sexual characteristic.
For many men, being honest with oneself about depression feels like an admission of weakness. Talking about your depression with others can feel like presenting your weakness to the world. Like you are publicly de-valuing yourself.
A Social Reality
Generally speaking, men are expected to value engagement in competitive things, and often pushed away from the collaborative. We encourage our male students to engage in ‘manly’ extracurriculars include football, weightlifting, etc; while particularly ‘girly’ ones like cheerleading, dance, etc, are discouraged.
Manly tasks are competitive, with losers and winners. The drive is often to prove oneself as ‘the best’ out of a range of competitors. Like elk locking horns to prove themselves the best available mate, we prize these tasks for men in large part because they help in sexual selection. While the ‘strongest’ men in today’s society are not always the best mate, the deep evolutionary part of our brain still wants to find a mate for the world that cavemen lived in.
These deep drives have had a tremendous influence on the expectations we have for men, and the way that we value them, but are often completely illegitimate, and harmful..
Break Harmful Expectations
We want men to be strong, but hold contradictory requirements about how they should go about doing that. We expect men to be emotionally stable, but often forbid them from honestly dealing with their feelings.
This is a contradictory expectation. A cognitive dissonance that by-and-large, society holds regarding our expectations of males.
But you don’t need to hold this expectation of yourself.
To be emotionally strong is not to lock up our emotions, hiding them away from ourselves and others so we don’t have to deal with them. What takes true strength is to face what many men fear, the reality of their feelings. No man is capable of dominating his own feelings, and to hold that expectation of yourself is to suffer. Accept them, examine them, and let others help you, and you can access and entirely new perspective on what life is capable of being for you.
How Do I Know I Have Depression?
Strictly speaking, you can’t know you have depression until you’ve been clinically diagnosed. But there are some pretty strong warning signs that can serve as strong indications that you ought to reach out for diagnosis. If any combination of the following describe you, you ought to seriously consider getting in touch with Capital Choice Counselling.
- No longer interested in previously valued activities.
- Regularly feel worthless.
- Excessively guilty, either towards a particular event/object or generally.
- Thoughts/mental images of death or suicide.
- Often excessively and irrationally irritable.
- Distinct sense of having little energy
- Generally restless
Often depressed people become so used to feeling depressed that they aren’t even aware that they can feel otherwise. Men are not taught to engage regularly with their emotions or the way they feel, so lack of awareness concerning depression is especially likely for them. Men are also taught not to speak publicly about their feelings, so even if they are aware, they are less likely to seek help.
If any of the above descriptions speak to you, there is a very real chance that you are struggling with a problem that nobody is capable of surmounting on their own. If you struggle to find things in life to look forward to, find yourself questioning the meaning of your day-to-day existence, or think about suicide (whether you think about it seriously or not), it’s time to reach out.
What Do I Do If I Think I Have Depression?
Your first step is to simply get in touch with Capital Choice Counselling.
You can do so however you’d like. Give us a call, fill out the above linked form, even snail-mail us if that’s your preference.
There is no cut-and-dried solution that is available to solve the problem of depression. The reasons behind the problem vary from person to person, so naturally your solution will as well. What’s most important is that you take the most important step, the first one, by reaching out.
What comes after is not your concern at the moment. It’s not necessary to know every step you’ll have to take between here and the place you want to get to, what matters is that you’re on the right path. If you’re dealing with the symptoms of depression, and are doing so alone, you aren’t on that path.
What I’m Unsure Whether or Not I’m Depressed?
Many try and construct narratives that explain their feelings in ways that allow them to sidestep the admission they’re depressed. ‘It’s temporary’, ‘I’m just not sleeping well’, ‘I’m just like this, I don’t need help’.
You might be one of them.
It could be the case that you are legitimately struggling with depression every day, but simply don’t want to admit to yourself or others that you are.
But you also might be right! It might legitimately be the case that you’re suffering from temporary sadness, just like any other person. It might have to do with the seasons, maybe it’s just your character, but it’s not depression.
The only way to actually know, not just believe you aren’t depressed, is with the assistance of a professional.
If you are exhibiting the symptoms of depression, but believe yourself to not to have depression, the only way to know is reaching out to Capital Choice Counselling.
Capital Choice Counselling
Capital Choice Counselling is a network of hundreds of Ottawa-area therapists, counselors, and psychologists spanning the full range of mental-health services, including depression. If you believe yourself to possibly be depressed, and want to know for sure, by getting in touch with us you gain access to the full range of benefits CCC provides.
By providing a brief description of the problems you are struggling with, we can match you with a mental-health expert that best suits your needs. Not only will we find one that specializes in the discipline you need to return to peace-of-mind, but also one that can most conveniently fit your specific schedule. CCC works tirelessly to lower every barrier to accessing mental health services for Ottawa residents.
If you’re struggling with anything, Capital Choice Counselling is here to make sure you know you don’t have to do so alone. Your problems are not permanent, regardless of how they may feel. Capital Choice can help, you simply have to get in touch.