Men need to talk about depression, too, federal health officials say

Tuesday, April 1st 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ In a society that emphasizes men being rugged and strong, it's tough for a guy to admit to being depressed, but the National Institute of Mental Health wants that to change.

The agency, one of the National Institutes of Health, launched a campaign Tuesday to raise awareness that men, too, suffer from depression and that they need to seek help.

About 6 million men have clinical depression, but research shows they are less likely to seek treatment than do women. One result is that men are suicide victims about four times more often than women.

``For generations men have been told that they have to act tough,'' U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona said in a statement. ``Today we're saying to men, it's OK to talk to someone about what your're thinking, or how you're feeling, or if you're hurting.''

The new public health campaign, said Carmona, is ``attacking the stigma that tough guys can't seek help. They can and they should.''

Called ``Real Men, Real Depression,'' the campaign will include a series of television, print and radio public service announcements featuring people telling their personal stories about how they confronted their own depression. The campaign will not use actors, but ordinary people who had problems, the agency said.

Studies show that depression affects women about twice as often as men, but the two genders respond differently to the serious health problem. Women tend to talk about the symptoms and seek treatment, while men do not, the NIMH said.

Men tend not to recognize that some health symptoms may be caused by depression. Signs of depression include irritability, poor sleep, loss of interest in work or hobbies, and withdrawal. Depression is often a major factor in suicides.

``Men may not even recognize that depression is the problem or that much can be done to help them,'' Dr. Thomas Insel, head of NIMH, said in a statement. ``Effective treatments are available and the success rate is very high _ more than 80 percent _ for people who seek help.''

When depression strikes, men are more likely to seek relief with drugs or alcohol, or to become frustrated and angry. Some respond with compulsive work or attention to hobbies. Others may engage in reckless behavior.

``We need to understand how men respond to stress and symptoms associated with depression and how to alert physicians to better recognize and treat depressive disorders in men,'' Dr. Dennis Charney, chief of the NIMH mood and anxiety disorders program, said in a statement.