By Shan Jiang
Canadian Men’s Health Week (June 10-19) is a week dedicated to raising awareness for health issues that affect men.
It is an appropriate time to talk about an area that deserves more recognition: men’s mental health. One in three men is likely to experience a depressive episode in their lifetimes. Men are three to four times more likely to die by suicide than women, but are less likely to ask for help – only 30 per cent of people who use mental health services are men.
Depression is a complicated disease that can be influenced by a combination of a person’s genes and the stress that they experience in life. Types of stress can include relationship problems, unemployment, financial worries, chronic health problems, loneliness, childhood trauma, and times of change.
For example, while the birth of a new baby can be a wonderful time for the family, up to one in 10 fathers can experience postpartum depression, but it is not something that’s as widely acknowledged as postpartum depression in mothers.
Symptoms of depression in men can include a low mood and lack of interest in things that would usually interest them. People often experience poor sleep and poor concentration. Physically, depression can show as a change in appetite, having low energy, feeling sluggish, and sometimes as pain in the body.
There may be feelings of guilt, anger, or irritability. Sometimes these feelings are expressed as reckless behaviour or alcohol or other substance abuse. Feelings of self-harm or suicide are worrying signs of depression and need to be taken seriously.
Once someone is diagnosed with depression, there are several treatment options available to them, including medications, cognitive behavioural therapy and talk therapy. A physician or therapist can help them choose the right combination of treatments. What’s more, making positive lifestyle changes is just as important as medical treatments.
Studies have shown that living a healthy lifestyle can improve mood and reduce stress. Small changes can make a big impact on improving someone’s health.
Things like going for a walk after lunch or dinner, filling up half of the plate with vegetables during meals, aiming for 8-10 hours of sleep at night, cutting back on smoking, drinking, and using other drugs like marijuana, and spending time with loved ones and making time for hobbies and interests can all be helpful.
Maintaining healthy living habits is the foundation for good health in general, but is the key to improving mental health.
Society often expects men to be strong and silent, to cope with their problems by themselves. Depression is not a disease that can be cured in isolation. It takes a community to help someone through their depression.
If you feel that you may have symptoms of depression, the most important thing to do is to reach out for help. Talk to your loved ones, make an appointment to see your physician. If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis, call York Region Crisis Response Services at 1-855-310-2673 (COPE).