April 2013's time we listened

Next week is Depression Awareness week in the UK, a time to raise awareness; end stigmas associated with depression and help those affected by it. According to the Depression Alliance charity, one in five people will have depression at some time in their life and 2.9million people in the UK are diagnosed as having depression at any one time.

In 2011 the number of men and women under 30 in the UK who killed themselves increased to a nine year high and a total of 6,045 people aged 15 and over had committed suicide. 

But what is surprising is that men were the highest group with 4,552 male suicides compared to 1,493 female suicides. The 30-44 year old group had the highest number of suicides, while suicide was the biggest single killer of men in the 15-29 year old age bracket

One key factor it seems is that men just don’t like to discuss their issues and problems as much as females do and they don’t know who to turn to when they are worried or in a crisis.

Of course there are many reasons why someone may be depressed or think about suicide but, as an organisation, Men’s Sexual Health often deals with calls and personal stories about how issues with their sexual health, sex life or sexuality have caused men to become depressed.

Many men find it uncomfortable to discuss any matters of health - with the  old masculine macho stereotype that they should not show pain, cry, or admit when they need help, it’s no wonder that these issues can build up into something serious, and why such high statistics are being reported. We so often hear from doctors and GP’s that men come to them when the problem/issue has become so big and that if only they had come sooner, treatment would have been more effective.  Men need to learn that it’s ok to ask for help and that it’s alright to discuss their feelings.

For many men issues around erectile dysfunction can lead to great personal stress in their life, leading to depression, feeling that they have failed as a man and putting possible tension in their relationships. What’s more, although erectile dysfunction can often be a physiological issue, very frequently it is also a psychological issue; so if the man is already stressed or depressed in other areas of his life, this could affect his ability to get or maintain an erection, thus leading to further depression and stress.

For some men issues around sexuality can produce great levels of depression, with concerns about people finding out, coming out, prejudice in society and homophobia. For young people, where growing up is already a difficult time, to feel different to what is ‘perceived’ as ‘normal’ can cause many young men to spiral into depression. In a recent survey 53% of LGB (lesbian, gay & bisexual) youths, have contemplated self harm, 40% attempted at least once and 32% on more than one occasion. Even more saddening, LGB youths are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than that of their heterosexual peers. Many will often attempt to cope with such distress with smoking, drinking and illicit drug use, with percentages of usage again much higher than their peers, for example, alcoholism affects the LGB community at a rate of 22-30% compared with 10% as the national average

Regardless of your sexuality, talking to someone you trust can be an important first step. Most people with depression are treated by their doctor, who'll listen to what you're experiencing and chat to you about treatment options. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may suggest:

  • self-help(e.g. support groups, exercise, changes in diet)
  • talking treatments (e.g. CBT, counselling)
  • antidepressant tablets

Everyone is different so it can sometimes take time to find the right treatments and you might need to visit your doctor on a number of occasions.

But it’s important to take that first step, and make contact! You can either call us on 01793 250951 if you are Swindon based, or if national you can call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90. Men's Sexual Health can offer a free counselling service for clients who are Swindon based.