Founded in Australia in 1999, the focus of Movember originally was on raising funds for and awareness of prostate cancer. It has since broadened its scope to include awareness of other male health concerns such as testicular cancer, depression and suicide. A lack of public awareness and absence of programs targeting men have rendered this major public health issue virtually invisible. That’s why depression and suicide among men have been labeled the silent epidemic. It is also silent because many men are resistant or hesitant to speak about their mental illness or seek help.
Research shows us that men show symptoms of depression by becoming more irritable and short tempered; by working more; isolating themselves from family and friends; engaging in risky behaviours and self medicating with drugs and alcohol.
For many men, the myth exists that depression is a sign of weakness and that they should be able to cope or snap out of depression. Sadness is not a “manly” emotion and so it is better to show anger or rage. Because of these myths, men will often talk about feeling angry or irritable rather than sad or down.
A number of factors have been identified that may put a person at higher risk for depression. These include:
- Faulty mood regulation and poor coping skills
- Genetics or family history
- Medical conditions
Depression is a complicated condition which encompasses many factors. For example, a person who has a family history of depression may be exposed to stressors (relationship status change, job loss) which can trigger depression. For many men, they will not seek support until their depression is very severe, if at all, increasing their risk of taking their own lives. According to statistics Canada, suicide is the 9th leading cause of death overall but in certain groups like males 30 to 39 it is the second leading cause.
Groups like the Movember foundation aim to raise awareness and provide support to those suffering from depression. Websites like HeadsUpGuys.org and Mantherapy.org provide information and support to men and their families. They address the myths and provide factual information along testimonials from men who are recovering from depression. Henry Longfellow once said, “Every man has secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.” Take care of yourselves and each other.