June is Men’s Mental Health Month, and a perfect time to let the men in our lives know they are not alone. When it comes to mental health, especially depression, men statistically are far less likely to let it be known when they are struggling, and even less likely to reach out for help. Men tend to associate vulnerability with weakness, thanks to societal constructs that have been ingrained for far too long. The reality is that it takes strength to recognize you need support, and it also takes strength to fight it. Nevertheless, regardless of your gender, if you are uncomfortable asking for help, it’s OK! You’re already on the right track by being here, and hopefully, this will help you feel more empowered.
How Do You Know You Need Help?
In some cases, living with depression can leave you in a fog, and sometimes that fog gets so dense that you can no longer recognize the severity of your symptoms. Knowing what some common red flags are and being more mindful of your moods can help you keep track. For example, one of the biggest signs can be a change in your sleeping habits. When you have depression, sleeping excessively and waking up still feeling fatigued is common. A good way to track all of these emotions and habits is to keep a mood journal, which will help you identify patterns.
Think about how much easier it would be to ignore these signs, stay in bed, and stop taking care of yourself. Depression will whisper in your ear and tell you nothing matters. Depression will trick you into thinking you shouldn’t care. Remember: it takes immense strength to fight depression and the lies it tells.
With that being said, it’s important to realize there is a difference between being sad and dealing with clinical depression. Sadness usually has an identifiable trigger and passes relatively quickly. Depression doesn’t manifest the same way for everyone but is generally a more constant, long-term discouragement or hopelessness and there is often not a specific reason for these feelings. Let’s say you have been using your mood journal for a month. If you find that what you would have previously brushed off as “a bad day” is happening more often than not, it may be time to ask for help. If you find that you’re feeling apathetic about everything, perhaps even keeping your journal seems “pointless” or you’re thinking that “nothing matters,” it’s time to ask for help.
What Do You Do First?
Putting the energy and effort into recognizing the issue and choosing to fight back is already a very important step. Once you’re in that mindset, you are going to have to let your walls down and talk to someone. Many times it’s easier to communicate with someone you don’t know personally, especially online. Do some research, look for local resources, and read other people’s stories—in doing so, you will be reminded that you are not alone. You may even find a sense of community that you have been lacking. Connecting with your current and closest support system is a great step as well. If you can, reach out to a close friend, partner or spouse, or a family member. Have a real and honest conversation about what you are going through and let them know you are looking for support. Again, this is where your depression will whisper in your ear: “They won’t care, they’ll think you’re a wimp, they’ll laugh at you.” You are stronger than this voice.
Lastly, consider talking to a professional. You have to decide that you are important enough, that you deserve to be happy, and that you don’t have to go through the process of healing by yourself. You might be nervous and unsure about where to start. Fortunately, there are now more accessible and convenient ways to get connected to professional help, such as seeing a psychiatrist online or using resources available to you. These resources can get you the help you need with minimal disruption to your typical routine.
Remember: armies exist for a reason, battles aren’t fought nor are they won alone. Build yourself an army of support.