Men comprise some 80% of all suicides with depression being a component of the majority of them. Depression among men is rising, fast, yet current psychotherapy treatments typically fail to differentiate between what works best for each sex. This must change if we want to keep men mentally fit — and alive!
The masculinity crisis is real.
Men make up 49% of the population but nearly 80% of all suicides.
Every 13.7 minutes a man takes his life somewhere in the U.S. Depression is present in at least 50% of these suicides, according to Canada’s Centre for Suicide Prevention.
Along with medication, psychological therapy can help alleviate depressive symptoms.
For women, that is.
But less so for men.
That’s because we appear to have depression all wrong.
Men and women view the world very differently; their brains are literally wired differently.
And this means 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 U.S., appeared open to the idea of “male-based depression.”
Back in 2005, the APA noted that those in the psychological community were “coming to think that the traditional signs of depression (sadness, worthlessness, excessive guilt) may not represent many men’s experience of a depressive period.”
Unfortunately, not long after, the “sex is a construct” narrative started gaining traction, and the APA began denying that differences between the sexes actually exist.
Soon after, the APA decided to label 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 the men of America?
Which brings us back to the idea of “male-based depression.” Adam Lane Smith, a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in treating both men and women, says that male depression tends to revolve around feelings of helplessness and powerlessness.
“Men need the ability to change their environment, create an impact that lasts (a legacy), and to either stop their pain or make it have 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 center around feeling unloved or feeling useless to the people they love,” Smith noted. “Women need to feel cared for, appreciated, and helpful.”
For men, feeling unable to positively affect their environment appears to be the prelude to deep depression.
“First,” said Smith, “they start feeling helpless in these areas, that they can never get out of these negative feelings.”
Then, after some time, he added, the “suicidal feelings set in.”
Smith words are particularly troubling because the rate of male depression is now rising so dramatically.
If given the choice, men tend to prefer speaking to a male therapist.
This has nothing to do with sexism.
Data confirms that men just respond better to male therapists than they do to female therapists.
Sadly, there just aren’t enough male therapists to choose from.
Almost two-thirds of psychologists in the United States are female.
Eighty percent of clinical psychologists are female.
Some 75% of psychology graduate students are female.
This is one reason why therapy is failing men.
Another reason is that most therapy sessions center around making men feel better, “more loved and more connected,” Smith notes.
However, the vast majority of the time, he said, men feel powerless, “so making them feel loved while still powerless makes them feel like more of a burden, not less of one.”
In other words, we are trying to treat male-based depression using female-oriented approaches.
And this is likely making male therapy patients feel even worse.
Which begs the question: What, if anything, can be done?
First and foremost, the time has come for the broader psychology community to reverse course and recognize that biological differences exist – both for the physical body and the immaterial 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-based issue currently growing worse,” Smith explains.
To get men out of their rut, they must not only be made to feel better, but actually achieve impactful and meaningful results.
This should be the end game of any mental health treatment.
Because to truly address male suffering, we must first accept the idea that a man’s pain often looks nothing like its female counterpart.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or are experiencing a mental health crisis and live in New York City, you can call 1-888-NYC-WELL for free and confidential crisis counseling. If you live outside the five boroughs, you can dial the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline at 988 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.