As most know, June is Men’s Health Month. When the topic of men’s health usually arises, it centers around prostate or penile issues. Other big concerns revolve around a diminishing libido, particularly with the aging male. However, one topic, which in my opinion, trumps all others, is the mental health issue.
Did you know that over 6 million men are affected by depression every year, and in Western countries, men are 3.5 times more likely to take their own lives compared to women? So, although those other things mentioned above are important, mental health is a huge issue that we need to be talking about.
Just the facts
Mental illness is a topic of aversion in Western society. Mental illness is a term that encompasses many different psychological and emotional issues, including depression, anxiety, panic disorder, PTSD, bipolar disorder, just to name a few. Having a mental health issue is highly stigmatized in our society.
The literature shows that those who have mental health issues or seek help for emotional distress are looked down on by their peers. This is just one of the reasons why over half of all adults diagnosed with mental illness do not receive any treatment.
Mental health is now beginning to affect our youth at an alarming rate. 2.5 million youth (about 15%) report Severe Depression, with those who are “multi-racial” are at greatest risk (about 60%).
Men and Mental Health
As mentioned above, men are more likely to commit suicide than their female counterparts as a result of depression. They are also less likely than women to seek help for depression. Instead they will use other methods in an attempt to cope. For an example 1 in 5 men will develop alcohol dependency. Military men, specifically veterans, experience twice the rate of alcohol and drug abuse than women. Gay men were found to have higher rates of substance abuse than straight men.
Why is depression in men so underdiagnosed? This question has been studied extensively. Because of the perceived pressure men feel to align with the more traditional masculine gender roles, seeking help for “mental issues” conveys an inferiority to their peers, which prevents many men from seeking help.
Another reason is that men exhibit symptoms quite differently than women do. These symptoms may be overlooked or not recognized as symptoms of an underlying mental health issue.
With men, instead of sadness and/or feelings of worthlessness, there is often times fatigue, irritability, loss of interest in work or hobbies. Additional symptoms are difficulty concentrating, sleep and memory problems, and even low libido.
If those symptoms sound familiar, it is because they are very similar to symptoms of low testosterone. As a matter of fact, low levels of testosterone correlate with depression, higher levels of stress, and mood swings. However, physical symptoms of depression (e.g. headaches, low back pain) are very different than that of low testosterone.
Where to Go From Here
I first want to speak to the guys out there reading this. Men, if you are feeling any of the symptoms described above, talk to someone right away. There is no shame in it. Instead, there is strength. Being courageous is not being fearless, but instead, pushing ahead despite the fear.
The first step should ALWAYS be reaching out to a healthcare provider to talk about the issues that may be pressing down on you. Counseling works. Having someone there, who is non-biased, that can help guide you to answers to questions or problems you may be facing can be extremely powerful. Additionally, you need not worry about being judged or anyone else finding out about the matters you discuss. Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Social Workers, and Counselors, are bound to privacy.
In the interim, you should get your labs checked, including a hormone panel. Because low testosterone has been shown to cause men to feel depressed and anxious, this could be a result of low testosterone and could quite possibly be an easy fix.
In case you have never heard of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), it is when you are treated with testosterone to restore optimal testosterone levels. This can be done a number of ways, including bi-weekly injections or daily application of testosterone creams or gels, just to name a few.
If you are a man out there reading this and you have some of the symptoms we have been discussing and do not know where to turn, there are plenty of resources out there online.
Here are a few:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline- 800-273-8255
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline connects you to CONTACT USA accredited counselors that are available 24/7 to provide emotional support and other services via chat or by phone.
Mental health is no joke. And it is also nothing to be ashamed of. If you notice you are having symptoms such as increased irritability, decreased motivation, increased alcohol consumption, increased aggression or decreased tolerance, decreased libido, sleep trouble, or low libido, these could be signs and symptoms that you are depressed. Do not let it fester. Seek help. If you wish, you can call us here at Next Level TRT or one of the resources we have listed above. There is absolutely no reason why you should go at it alone.
If you think your hormone levels are a little out of whack (testosterone, estradiol, thyroid, etc), let us help you figure it out. It is very inexpensive and extremely convenient. We can set you up from home whenever you are ready.
Thanks for taking time to read this piece. If you believe you know someone who may benefit from the information within, please forward it. You could be the only one who recognizes the symptoms.
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Thanks again for reading!
Michael Ward, APRN, AGACNP-BC
Co-founder and Chief Clinical Officer at Next Level TRT