Movember may be a time where your normally clean-shaven boyfriend ditches the shaver to grow a moustache - and looks hilarious - but behind the fuzzy top lip there are a number of good causes.
Depression is much more than just feeling down (as many people, too quick to say "snap out of it", still believe). It is a serious illness that affects your mood, motivation and self-esteem, impacting all areas of life - from work to personal relationships.
But in our 'big boys don't cry' culture where lads are largely taught to hide their emotions, how does depression manifest itself in men?
There is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, which only worsens when it comes to men. But organisations and charities are taking a stand, hoping to tackle the taboos of a seldom talked about issue.
Men's Health Week 2013 focussed on male depression and earlier this year Stephen Fry took mental health stigma head on when he revealed he had attempted suicide while filming abroad in 2012.
We spoke to mental health charity Mind about symptoms, causes, treatment and stigma.
Signs of depression in men
Depression affects everyone differently, but there are some common symptoms, including feeling low-spirited, restless, irritable, unable to relate to other people and losing interest in sex.
Men and women can react to depression quite differently. Women are more likely to have symptoms such as tearfulness and low mood, whereas men are more likely to externalise symptoms or ‘act out’, displaying aches and pains or becoming angry and frustrated.
There is still a lot of stigma around mental health, do men deal with depression differently?
Men are just as likely to experience depression as women, roughly one in ten people, but are far less likely to seek support.
Almost a third of men would be embarrassed about seeking help for a mental health problem and less than a quarter of men would visit their GP if they felt down for more than two weeks, in comparison to a third of women.
Men are half as likely to talk to their friends about problems as women and only 3% of men would discuss worries with their relatives, compared to 54% of women.
Men try to find ways of dealing with their problems independently. They prefer to watch TV or drink alcohol whereas women were twice as likely to talk to their friends, when trying to unwind.
Issues such as self stigmatisation, or the idea that ‘real men don’t cry’, can prevent men from accessing the help that they need. Even when they do reach out, diagnosis is difficult because more typically ‘male’ symptoms, don’t fit with the classic signs of mental distress that GPs look out for.
What causes are associated with male depression?
The causes of depression vary from person to person and it can happen for one or more reasons. Occasionally it may appear for no obvious reason.
Potential causes include life events, loss, internalised anger, childhood experiences, physical conditions, side effects of medication, diet, street drugs and alcohol, and genetic factors.
Men may be more likely to self-medicate than women, but tobacco, alcohol or other drugs, make depression worse.
What are effective treatments for depression - are some more or less suited to men?
- Regular exercise (at least 20 minutes a day) can be very effective in lifting mood, increasing energy levels, and improving appetite and sleep. Stimulating endorphins and engaging in group activity is a effective treatment.
- Group therapy allows people to work together on their problems, with a therapist. Talking to others and getting their insight can help you understand yourself better; you may also learn about relationships with others.
- Befriending, peer support and volunteering schemes can also be effective, as can Arts therapies such as art, music and drama therapy, particularly for men who find it difficult to talk about how they’re feeling.
- Practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine may offer treatments such as acupuncture, massage, homeopathy and herbal medicine that many people with depression have found helpful.
For more information about depression, as well as support and advice, visit Mind's website.
<br>One way to sabotage yourself is to take a single event and treat it as an ongoing source of negativity. "People who are unemployed do this a lot," says Rego. "They've lost their job because of the economy and they personalize it." <br><br> It's also unhealthy to catastrophize--focus on the worst imagined outcome, even if it's irrational. For example, don't let concerns about money escalate into the conviction you'll soon be homeless.<br><br> Instead of thinking, "I'll never get another job," try to say to yourself: "I will get another job. It just may take some time."<br><br> <strong>More From Health:</strong> <br> <br><a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20515167,00.html" target="_hplink">12 Surprising Causes of Depression</a><br> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20581256,00.html" target="_hplink">Dos and Don'ts for Dealing with Anger</a><br> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20526304,00.html" target="_hplink">20 Celebrities Who Battled Depression</a><br>
Ever clash with a colleague or fight with a friend and then keep obsessively thinking about it, amplifying the anger, stress, and anxiety associated with the memory? Known as rumination, this type of thinking is linked to a greater risk of becoming or staying depressed. <br><br> While reflection is a good thing, and may help you solve problems, rumination does the opposite. <br><br> If you catch yourself ruminating, studies suggest it may help if you try to distract yourself, meditate, or redirect your thoughts. Cognitive behavioral therapy often targets rumination because it can be so damaging to mental health.
Retire Your Crystal Ball
Very few (if any) of us are blessed with the ability to predict the future. But depressed people will often convince themselves they know what will happen a day, a month, or a year down the line. And it's usually bad, if not downright catastrophic. <br><br> Fortunately, our dire predictions rarely come true. <br><br> Try to stay in the present. It's much more manageable and you're less likely to blow things out of proportion.
Don't Dwell On The Past
It's pretty pointless to tell yourself you<em> should</em> have done this or <em>shouldn't</em> have done that. You can't change the past, but you can live in the present. <br><br> Just accept that you made the best decisions you could have made with the information or resources you had at the time. Hindsight is always 20/20, so best to try to just let it go and don't beat yourself up for perceived missteps. <br><br> And do a rumination check; ruminating about the past can generate anxiety, just as worry about the future.
Reach Out To Others
A hallmark of depression is isolation. It can happen easily if you're not working, or you're avoiding people because you're depressed. But reinvigorating or expanding a social network provides an opportunity to get support, perhaps even from people in the same or a similar situation, says Rego. <br><br> "Once you start reconnecting with people, you get a sense they understand," he says. "You get positive advice and encouragement and it's often done in activities that end up being fun." <br><br> Staying home alone will perpetuate the depression. Getting out with other people--even a little bit--will lift your spirits.
Stick To A Structured Routine
Even if you don't feel like it, make sure you get up at a set time, eat meals at the same hour every day (even if you're not hungry), and avoid lounging on the couch during the day lest it prevent you from sleeping well at night. <br><br> "People who are depressed tend to eat or sleep inconsistently," says Rego. "Even if you're unemployed or feeling down, it's really important to set and establish a daily routine as best you can. This gives you a sense of regularity that can help with a depressed mood." <br><br> If you can incorporate socializing into your routine, all the better.
Avoid Black And White Thinking
Black and white is great for zebras, but not thoughts. Depressed people tend to think in extremes: I'm a loser. No one loves me. I'll never get a job. <br><br> But your thought patterns could put you in a rut or keep you there. "Being depressed or sad is going to color the way you think about yourself in a negative direction," says Rego. <br><br> These thoughts can paralyze you and stop you from doing the very things that will get you out of a lousy situation. Try to think in shades of gray, says David R. Blackburn, PhD,a psychologist with Scott & White Hospital in Temple, Texas. Instead of "no one loves me," try "lots of people (if not everybody) love me."
Reality Check Your Thoughts
If you're depressed, negative thoughts go with the territory. However, they are rarely grounded in reality. <br><br> Once you've identified a negative thought, ask yourself, "Where is the evidence that I'm the most despicable human being on the entire earth?" There probably isn't any. <br><br> "You can't just be rattling these thoughts back and forth and saying they're true," says Blackburn. "You have to come up with some solid evidence." <br><br> And if you're worried about what people are thinking about you, go ahead and ask them.
Choose Smart Goals
Select a few simple, straightforward goals you can easily set and follow, suggests Rego. Those goals should be <em>SMART</em>, which stands for "specific, measurable, attainable, rewarding, and time-limited." <br><br> So for example, deciding you will have a job by the end of the week is unrealistic. <br><br> But deciding to post two resumes online by the end of the week, on the other hand, is <em>SMART</em>. "It's specific. It's attainable. It's not that much effort to do and it could be rewarding," says Rego.
Fake It A Bit
Write down all the things you used to like doing that you've stopped doing because you're sad and depressed, suggests Rego, who is also assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. <br><br> That could be going to the movies, socializing with friends, or simply going to the corner coffee shop with a newspaper. <br><br> Then, one by one, start reincorporating these activities into your life even if you're feeling unenthusiastic about it. Also, focus on tasks that can give you a sense of mastery or accomplishment, whether it's tidying up the apartment or paying the bills. That can help ease the depression as well. <br> <br><strong>More From Health:</strong> <br> <br><a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20515167,00.html" target="_hplink">12 Surprising Causes of Depression</a><br> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20581256,00.html" target="_hplink">Dos and Don'ts for Dealing with Anger</a><br> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20526304,00.html" target="_hplink">20 Celebrities Who Battled Depression</a><br>
Don't Deny Depression
If your present situation, well, sucks, denying it will only make things worse. "Some people don't accept they're depressed and instead beat themselves up or think they're crazy or weak," says Rego. <br><br> This may only drive you deeper down, while acceptance can relieve the suffering, he says. <br><br> In general, knowing and accepting that you're depressed can allow you to take steps to make it better or get treatment, rather than pretend that everything's just fine.
Treat Yourself Well
Take a look at the language you use when you think about or talk to yourself and compare it to the way you talk to everyone else. If there's a disconnect, try to treat yourself in a kinder, gentler way. <br><br> "We're often kind to everybody else but we beat ourselves up. That's a double standard," says Blackburn. "It would be preferable to use a single standard: Don't beat everyone else up, but get off your own back, too." <br> <br><strong>More From Health:</strong> <br> <br><a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20515167,00.html" target="_hplink">12 Surprising Causes of Depression</a><br> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20581256,00.html" target="_hplink">Dos and Don'ts for Dealing with Anger</a><br> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20526304,00.html" target="_hplink">20 Celebrities Who Battled Depression</a><br>