Dr Mazvita Machinga
Everyone, man or female feels sad or irritable sometimes or has trouble sleeping, and focusing occasionally. But these feelings and troubles usually pass after a couple of days. When a man who has depression, he has trouble with daily life and loses interest in anything for over two weeks at a time.
Depression is more than feeling unhappy, it is a hormonal and biological condition. Both men and women get depressed. But men can experience it differently than women. I am writing this article as a tribute to all men so that they can have more knowledge on this overwhelming condition and get help in time.
Many men do not recognise, acknowledge or seek help for depression. They are usually reluctant to talk about how they feel. They are taught to be man enough and strong. But depression in men is real. It can affect any man at any age. It disrupts relationships and interferes with work and daily activities. As one patient echoed, “It affects the way you think. It affects the way you feel. It affects the way you love. It’s just a blanket that covers everything . . . and it’s one that’s just so asphyxiating. And at times you just say it’s enough already. It just feels like enough.” There are many causes of depression — grief, loss of employment, experience of an event involving actual threatened death or serious injury or a threat to physical integrity of self or others. With history of violence and economic suffering in Zimbabwe, men are prone to depression. It is however, important to learn that men tend to express depression symptoms differently from women.
Why is it different? Again, there are multiple reasons. Men are socialised in Zimbabwe, to be strong, successful, capable of handling problems on their own and try to restrict their emotions and deny pain. Men are less likely to talk about their feelings their loved ones, family, pastors or even their doctors. As an old saying says “men go to their caves to solve problems alone”. If he cannot find a solution, then he does something (even destructive) to forget his problems.
Men can attempt suicide, alcohol or substance abuse, gambling, overeating, risky behaviours (interest in sex, reckless accidents or internet addiction) obsession with work can be violent and abusive. These behaviours have something in common; they are mood buffers, escapes, distractions, or self-esteem enhancers.
Another problem is men externalising behaviours because of depression (lashing out).
This includes emotional bullying, angry, increased conflict, blaming others, focused on failure, and worse still domestic violence. Men can have fatigue, diminished concentration, guilt and loss of interest in activities. So, how can we help men or what can men do to curb this condition.
Again, there is no one answer. The good news is that depression is a treatable illness. Depression can be eased by psychotherapy, medication and spiritual resources. Remember, psychotherapy has similar efficacy to drug or medication therapy for mild or moderate depression. The following are some hints;
Get help, accept help and help others. Help is available call for help
Go through cognitive interventions with qualified mental health professionals. Need help to demystify idealistic expectations and accepting reality as it is
Learn about depression and what triggers your depressive tendencies and then do things differently
Join group therapy facilitated by counselling services
Use your spiritual resources to cope positively.
With the right treatment, most men with depression can get better and gain back their interest in work, family, and interests. Do not wait until depression becomes psychotic or worse. Be strong enough to seek help.