Editor’s Note: The most recent NYC Dads Group podcast featured a discussion on male depression in wake of the recent suicide of dad blogger Marc Block. We asked New York-based psychotherapist and counselor Alex Stadler, a dad-to-be himself, if he could weigh in here with his expert advice.
Men shouldn’t need help.
This is part of an unwritten code and a shameful hypocrisy of our culture.
We lie to ourselves and say we are ‘fine’ when we are not because we have been told since childhood that men must be strong and stoic. Crying, let alone asking, for help is not masculine. So we tell ourselves and each other: “Man Up!”
However, when men suffer in private and take their own lives, they – like anyone else – leave loved ones behind to mourn. They harm more than themselves; they hurt those who love them the most.
My male clients usually end up in my office only after they realize they have hit rock-bottom. These are the truly fortunate ones whose inner voices yelled loud and long enough to enable them to go against the code; breaking the rule. This realization shows real strength.
Male depression, like any depression, is a state of mind where we feel we are failing. We blame ourselves for our failure, and we believe what we think. We find ourselves constantly following negative thoughts, repeating our negative mantras like an internal iTunes playlist. We ignore our friends’ and/or family’s warnings or pleas; blind to the exaggeration inherent in our negative thoughts. We now become angry.
Anger can be deafening. It oppresses and creates an isolation that leads us to crave an escape route. Some seek this getaway from our internal negative chatter through various regimens of immersion: in the Internet, the news, the latest reality show/situation comedy, alcohol, drugs, etc.
The relief, though, is often false and fleeting.
Each time these negative thoughts then return, they intensify. Yet we continue to tell anyone who asks that we are ‘fine’ when we feel ‘like shit’ because that has been drilled into our concept of “manliness” since we were young. If we continue to walk down this negative and self-critical path, our destination will be intensively negative and self-critical. We arrive at blackness, at nowhere. This is when we will believe that we have nothing to live for.
When someone takes his life, it is because he had a plan, the means and the energy. Most attempts that fail are cries for help. You will know that you are approaching or have reached this breaking point; the point where you need to ask for help, when you experience any combination of the following:
- poor sleep
- poor appetite
- poor self-care habitats
- inability to enjoy the things you normally love
- inability to communicate with the people you love
- any pattern of substance abuse
This is not an exhaustive list, but a list of indicators that you have reached the limit of your private suffering. Remember that suffering is always temporary but only alleviated by transforming it into a path of self-acceptance.
There is no shame in surviving male depression, and only through connection can we survive. If you are becoming concerned – about yourself or someone else – take stock, reach out, speak out and make that life-saving connection.
About the author
Alex Stadler is a licensed clinical social worker, a mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapist in private practice, and a mental health consultant to numerous NYC human services agencies. Contact him at 917-691-4574 or visit his website at effectivetherapynyc.com.