Depression has become more accepted as a topic for public discussion, with one in four of us predicted to suffer from mental illness at some point in our lives. The suicide statistics published last week, however, suggest that many still feel a stigma attached to mental health when it comes to seeking help and poses the question: What can be done to stop depression escalating into something even more serious?
The most recent statistics show, that for men in particular, there is a strong need to be able to identify feelings of depression and anxiety and seek help before they get out of control.
The figures showed that men in the UK are almost four times more likely to commit suicide than women- a rate that's the highest it's been in over a decade. But just what makes men different to women when it comes to mental health and why are these figures so high?
Whilst men experience depression in a similar way to women, there are some differences in the way they express their distress. Both men and women will make significant attempts to block out unpleasant feelings and symptoms, but women have a greater tendency to release emotions by talking to friends and family or a therapist.
The effect of internalising symptoms by withdrawing and avoiding seeking help, as many men do, can exacerbate the symptoms of depression and lead to overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
Consequently a man can perceive that he is unable to fulfill the role of provider, lover, friend or supporter and therefore has failed as a person. Men who are younger, unemployed or have a chronic health condition are more susceptible to depression.
As a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist with more than 27 years experience, I firmly believe that early intervention is key. The earlier you can identify negative feelings and seek help, the quicker the outcome and better the chance of recovery.
Depression and anxiety don't need to be a ball and chain for life. Talking things through with a trained CBT therapist can equip you with the skills to identify trigger points and deal with them as they occur going forward.
Technology has enabled accessing therapy to be a lot less daunting experience. For many the idea of sitting in a room with a stranger pouring your heart out one-on-one is terrifying. But now there are services available where you can communicate with a qualified therapist online from the comfort of your own home, or even while sitting sipping a coffee in a café.
This advancement of technology in the mental health space is helping to break down barriers for those wanting to seek help. The stigma attached to seeing a therapist can often hold men back from getting the help they need, perhaps because it's not perceived to be 'manly' to admit vulnerability or ask for support.
Interactive therapy online can be a great way to open up about problems in a discreet and informal setting. Communicating in real-time the patient can talk about how they are feeling at a pace that suits them, without the fear of judgment, to a qualified professional.
If we are serious about tackling mental health and suicide rates then we need to start thinking creatively about other ways to reach those who need help most. It is important people suffering from mental illness don't keep their feelings pent up. Fire up the laptop, log on to your phone, or open your tablet and start chatting to a trained therapist. It could just save your life.
Need help? In the UK, call The Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90. For more support and advice, visit the website here.