2 posts tagged “stigma of depression”

Brits are boosting men’s mental health — can the U.S. follow suit?

Posted 9 months ago by

The British Royals’ passion for improving mental health is giving us all the feels — and possibly helping reduce male suicide rates in the U.K. Who’s raising awareness of men’s mental health in the U.S.? (See how PatientsLikeMe member John, pictured above, is doing his part!)

Diverging stats in the U.K. and U.S.

The U.K. has been making progress in terms of reducing male suicide rates and the stigma around men’s mental health, thanks in part to Heads Together campaign launched by Prince William, Kate Middleton and Prince Harry in 2016. Each of them have their own areas of focus in mental health advocacy.

Kate deserves credit for coming up with the idea to join forces for one major campaign, Prince William says. He and his brother have also been opening up about their grief from losing their mother during their childhood.

Unfortunately, U.S. suicide rates (among men and women) have been on the rise, according to the latest CDC report, and stigma still surrounds mental health — especially among men.

The American Psychological Association (APA) says that about 6 million American men suffer from depression every year, but men are far less likely than women to seek help for their mental health. U.S. psychology researchers are studying “how the traditional male role — which restricts emotional expression and encourages a pre-occupation with success, power and competition — is associated with negative physical and psychological consequences, such as depression, anxiety and relationship problems,” the APA says.

U.S. campaigns and emerging voices

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) launched the “Real Men. Real Depression.” campaign in 2003, and other organizations and initiatives have sprung up, including:

A few high-profile guys have also opened up recently about their mental health struggles. In May 2018, Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps partnered with online therapy provider Talkspace to share his story of therapy helping him through severe depression and suicidal thoughts in 2014.

“Throughout my career, I struggled with depression and anxiety at various times, and I found it so difficult to get the help I needed,” Phelps says, noting that he went for days on end without leaving his room. “As I started opening up and talking about my issues, I felt strength, not vulnerability.”

In an August 2018 Boston Globe interview, Celtics basketball player Paul Pierce said that he privately struggled with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress after he was stabbed in a nightclub in 2000.

PatientsLikeMe member John shares about MDD with WebMD

John (JohnJFB126), a member of the 2016-2017 Team of Advisors, is raising his voice as a man living with major depressive disorder (MDD). He’s partnering with WebMD Education to share his perspective in an educational series aiming to help patients, caregivers and clinicians learn more about the mental health condition. John recently came to Boston to film a series of short videos for the series.

“I decided to share my experience because I know the power associated with exposure and advocacy,” John says. “As an ‘everyday’ guy, who has a wife, family and career, and who’s also had the MDD experience, it’s imperative — almost mandatory — for me to give expression to this disease. With the appropriate treatment, living with and getting through MDD is very possible. Remember you’re not alone.”

John says he hopes others will continue to open up about mental health, “especially those who have attained celebrity notoriety — their audience is usually vast, and this would place a recognizable face on the disease.”

Join PatientsLikeMe or log in to connect with thousands of others in the Mental Health forum anytime, and keep these crisis resources in mind.


Mike Wallace, Depression and Me

Posted June 11th, 2012 by

In honor of Men’s Health Week, we are pleased to present a guest post by PatientsLikeMe member tiredoftired, a young man who has been living with major depressive disorder since 2007.  Don’t miss this moving essay about how Mike Wallace’s passing earlier this year impacted and inspired him.

As I was driving to therapy on an April afternoon, I heard a news report that Mike Wallace, an original host of the television show 60 Minutes, had passed away.  I was intrigued when the short segment highlighted Wallace’s accomplishments in his battle with depression.  I was only somewhat familiar with the show, but it was obvious from the report that he had a decorated career as a journalist and his professional accomplishments could have easily taken the full slot.  Having struggled with depression myself, I felt compelled to investigate his life further.

Mike and Mary Wallace.  Photo Courtesy of CBS News.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with his work as I was, Wallace was a pioneer of the newsmagazine format, which shaped journalistic television.  He was a pit bull of a correspondent; with his aggressively confrontational approach, he posed direct questions that others were too afraid to ask, often leaving the subject shaken.  Wallace interviewed some of the most eminent, and even fearsome, people and did not hold back on his interrogation-like technique.

But Wallace said that his greatest accomplishment in life was that he survived.  Wallace endured several bouts of severe depression throughout his life, the first of which left him in such emptiness and despair that he attempted suicide as a means of escape.  He used his personal experiences with depression to share ideas that would give other sufferers advice and hope.  Reading about his life made me feel the same comfort he provided to others when he was alive, and I have become encouraged by lessons he transmitted.  Here are the top four:

  • There is no shame in depression: Wallace constantly repeated that depression does not signify an emotional weakness.  The pain, inability to cope and despair are unfathomable to those who have not experienced depression.  It is not a sadness that is surmountable by sheer willpower.  Aside from reassuring sufferers that their pain and disabilities were justified, it comforted them by seeing someone well-respected using his high-profile position to dissolve social stigma.
  • There is no shame in asking for help: The stigma can prevent people from seeking help and make them embarrassed that, unlike others, they are unable to push through sadness themselves.  Wallace said that the single most important thing you can do is to go and talk to someone.  He stressed that it is impossible for one to handle alone, and he encouraged people to seek therapy and take medication, as well as emphasizing the importance of social support from family and friends.
  • You are not alone: During depressive episodes, Wallace often talked to two close friends that also experienced depression.  By talking to those who could truly empathize, he felt comforted and validated.  Not only was he reassured that what he was feeling was normal, they were able to give him valuable insight and ideas.
  • There is a light at the end of the tunnel: Wallace’s friends also gave him hope.  He saw that they had been through the darkness of depression and survived.  And he passed along that message to others. As bad as it seems now, he told people, look at how he emerged from that same prison and went on to live a happy, productive life.

Mike Wallace has inspired me to perpetuate these messages and give others the same comfort and hope he gave me.  Depression is a real medical illness and pursuing treatment is nothing to be embarrassed about. With the help of mental health professionals and a strong support system, we have the ability to fight through the darkness.  By doing that, we can do more than just survive – we can build productive and meaningful lives.

Learn more about Mike Wallace’s struggle with depression in this candid CBS interview from 2006. Also, if you’re living with depression yourself, we invite you to join PatientsLikeMe’s depression community and connect with more than 11,000 others like you.