The support of loved ones can play an important role in helping sufferers identify and recover from depression. This Movember, we look at ways to help the men in our lives take care of their emotional and mental health.
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) says that rates of depression amongst men in South Africa are at an all-time high. Men often don’t recognise depression in themselves. “It’s often the spouse or work colleagues who will first notice a difference,” says clinical psychologist Dr Corb. Your encouragement and support can help your loved one cope with symptoms, seek professional help if necessary, and manage treatment.
How you can helpTease out the talk: Talking is so important, but men often suffer in silence, or struggle to express their feelings.Encourage more conversation and sharing of thoughts and feelings.
Help him to exercise and eat well: A balanced diet, and getting enough sleep and daily exercise are helpful in managing stress, anxiety and depression.
Less drinking: Alcohol may be a form of self-medication for men with depression. The trouble is, it makes depression worse, which in turn may encourage more drinking.
Seek out nurturing relationships: Men who are anxious or depressed often shy away from social situations. Instead, encourage contact with people who are willing to listen, and assist if necessary.
Suggest hobbies or other interests: Encourage your man to do things he enjoys. Does he play music? Or watch history documentaries? Or play golf? Find something for him to do - or you can do together - that might take his mind off things and rekindle his enthusiasm.
Help him relax: Suggest a gentle walk or to go for a massage. Listening to music or meditating are also good ways to relax.
Understand his lack of sexual interest: Depression itself can affect sex drive. Lack of sexual interest or ability to orgasm is also a possible side-effect of antidepressants. Encourage him to discuss this with his doctor.
Professional helpProper treatment through medication and psychotherapy is essential for people struggling with depression. If depression goes on for a few weeks, is affecting ability to function at work or in relationships with family and friends, or if a person has thoughts about suicide or death, consult a medical professional as soon as possible. A feeling of hopelessness, anger, apathy, poor concentration and changes in sleep habits are also red flags. Support your loved one by:
Encouraging him to seek professional help: Psychotherapy or counselling sessions will help him to explore deeper issues that may be worrying him. A psychiatrist will be able to help with advice and decisions around medication.
Reminding him to take his meds: Forgetting to take meds is often the culprit in people relapsing or getting worse. If he has been prescribed medication, help him to stay on track by reminding him to take his pills.
Your love mattersIf the man in your life is struggling to cope, your love and support can play an important role in encouraging him to talk about it, to take care of his emotional and mental health and to get the professional help he needs.
Seek helpDepression is a serious condition that should be treated.
SA Depression and Anxiety Group (www.sadag.org): to contact a counsellor between 8am-8pm Monday to Sunday, call: 011 234 4837.
Suicide emergencies: 0800 567 567.