March 18, 2023 | 12:30 p.m.
Males account for approximately 80% of all suicides, with depression being a component of the majority. Depression in men is increasing rapidly, but current psychotherapeutic treatments generally fail to differentiate between what works best for each gender. This has to change if we want to keep men mentally fit – and alive!
The crisis of masculinity is real.
Men represent 49% of the population but nearly 80% of all suicides.
Every 13.7 minutes, a man commits suicide somewhere in the United States. Depression is present in at least 50% of these suicides, according to the Canadian Center for Suicide Prevention.
In addition to medication, psychological therapy can help relieve depressive symptoms.
For women, that is.
But less for men.
This is because we seem to have depression all wrong.
Men and women see the world very differently; their brains are literally wired differently.
And that means that men and women also suffer from depression in different ways.
There was a time when the American Psychological Association (APA), the organization responsible for accrediting psychologists in the United States, seemed open to the idea of ”male depression.”
In 2005, the APA noted that members of the psychological community “come to believe that the traditional signs of depression (sadness, worthlessness, excessive guilt) may not represent many men’s experience of a depressive period.
Unfortunately, soon after, the “gender is a construct” narrative began to gain traction, and the APA began to deny that gender differences really existed.
Soon after, the APA decided to label the qualities associated with traditional masculinity as “psychologically harmful.”
Having effectively turned its back on men, is it any wonder that the current system is so ill-equipped to help America’s men?
Which brings us back to the idea of “male depression”. Adam Lane Smith, a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in treating both men and women, says male depression tends to revolve around feelings of helplessness and helplessness.
“Men need the ability to change their environment, create an impact that lasts (a legacy) and stop their pain or give it purpose,” he explained.
They are less interested in having their feelings validated, and more interested in finding a solution.
They want answers, and they want them now.
Female depression, on the other hand, “tends to focus on feeling unloved or useless for the people they love,” Smith noted. “Women need to feel loved, appreciated and helpful.”
For men, feeling unable to positively influence their environment seems to be the prelude to deep depression.
“First of all,” Smith said, “they start to feel powerless in these areas, that they can never get out of these negative feelings.”
Then, after a while, he added, the “suicidal feelings set in”.
Smith’s words are particularly troubling because the rate of depression among men is now rising so dramatically.
Given the choice, men tend to prefer talking to a male therapist.
It has nothing to do with sexism.
The data confirms that men respond better to male therapists than to female therapists.
Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough male therapists to choose from.
Almost two-thirds of psychologists in the United States are women.
Eighty percent of clinical psychologists are women.
Some 75% of psychology graduate students are women.
This is one of the reasons therapy fails in men.
Another reason is that most therapy sessions aim to make men feel better, “more loved and more connected,” Smith notes.
However, the vast majority of the time, he said, men feel helpless, “so making them feel loved while they’re still helpless makes them feel more like a burden, not less like one.”
In other words, we try to treat male depression using female-centered approaches.
And that probably makes male therapy patients worse.
Which begs the question: what can be done, if anything?
First and foremost, now is the time for the broader psychology community to step back and recognize that biological differences exist – for both the physical body and the intangible mind. “
A one-size-fits-all approach is (not) going to turn the tide against the suicide epidemic, the drug epidemic, or any other mental health issue that is currently worsening,” Smith says.
Getting men out of their rut is about not only making them feel better, but also about getting impactful and meaningful results.
That should be the end of all mental health treatment.
Because to truly address male suffering, you must first accept the idea that a man’s pain often has nothing to do with his female counterpart.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or experiencing a mental health crisis and live in New York City, you can call 1-888-NYC-WELL for free, confidential crisis counseling. If you live outside the five boroughs, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 24/7 at 988 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.