March 18, 2023 | at 12:30 p.m
Males make up about 80% of all suicides, and depression is a part of them. Depression in men is increasing rapidly, but current psychotherapy treatments are generally unable to distinguish what works best for each gender. This has to change if we want to keep men mentally fit – and alive!
The masculinity crisis is real.
Men make up 49 percent of the population, but almost 80 percent of all suicides.
According to the Canadian Center for Suicide Prevention, every 13.7 minutes a person takes their own life somewhere in the United States. Depression is present in at least 50 percent of these suicides.
In addition to medication, psychological therapy can help alleviate the symptoms of depression.
So for women.
But less so for men.
This is because we seem to have depression wrong.
Men and women see the world very differently; their brains are literally wired differently.
And this 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-based depression.”
In 2005, the APA noted that psychological people “are beginning to think that traditional markers of depression (sadness, worthlessness, excessive guilt) may not represent many men’s experiences of depression.”
Unfortunately, soon after that, the “gender is a construct” narrative began to gain traction, and the APA began denying the existence of gender differences.
Shortly thereafter, the APA decided to label characteristics associated with traditional masculinity as “psychologically harmful.”
After effectively turning 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-based depression.” Adam Lane Smith, a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in treating both men and women, says that depression in men 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 either end their pain or make it a purpose,” he explained.
They are less interested in validating their feelings and more interested in finding a solution.
They want answers, and they want them now.
Women’s depression, on the other hand, “usually centers around feeling unloved or unneeded by the people they love,” Smith noted. “Women need to feel cared for, valued and helped.”
For men, the feeling of not being able to make a positive impact on their environment seems to be a prelude to deep depression.
“First,” said Smith, “they start to feel helpless in these areas, never getting rid of these negative feelings.”
Then, after some time, he added, “suicidal feelings rose.”
Smith’s words are especially troubling because the rate of depression in men is now increasing so dramatically.
If given a choice, men prefer to talk to a male therapist.
This has nothing to do with sexism.
The data confirms that men simply respond better to male therapists than to female therapists.
Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough male therapists.
Almost two-thirds of psychologists in the United States are women.
80 percent of clinical psychologists are women.
About 75% of graduate students in psychology are women.
This is one reason why therapy fails men.
Another reason is that most therapy sessions focus on what men do feel better, “more in love and more connected,” notes Smith.
However, he said that most of the time men feel powerless, so “if you make them feel loved, even though they’re still powerless, they feel like more of a burden, not less.”
In other words, we try to treat male depression with female approaches.
And this probably makes male therapy patients feel even worse.
This begs the question: what, if anything, can be done?
First, it is time for the wider psychology community to reverse course and recognize that biological differences exist – both in the physical body and in the immaterial mind. “
A one size fits all approach is…[not] to reverse the suicide epidemic, the drug epidemic, or any other mental health problem that’s getting worse right now,” Smith explains.
In order to get men out of their rut, they need to not only feel better, but also achieve impressive 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 male 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 call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline at 988 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.