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Caring for Men with Depression

Depression in women is a well-documented phenomenon. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression. Throughout the lifecycle we find evidence of depression in women: hormonal changes in puberty, pregnancy, post-partum and premenstrual periods are all associated with depression in women.  However, depression doesn’t confine itself to women.  Men, especially older men suffer with depression.  Although women have a higher rate of depression than men, older men have the highest rate of successful suicide attempts.  Therefore, it is important to recognize and treat depression in older men.

There are many reasons older men are at great risk, but their depression is often untreated:

  • Failure to recognize depression. 
  • Downplaying signs and symptoms. 
  • Reluctance to discuss depression symptoms. 
  • Resisting mental health treatment. 

Caregivers often have great difficulty providing care to men who are depressed.  The depression is masked at times by substance abuse and other behaviors that are interpreted as anger; lack of appreciation for the efforts of the caregiver; refusal to cooperate with a plan of care.  All of this makes the life of the caregiver harder than it needs to be.  Women caring for men report similar problems whether the male is a spouse, a parent or a sibling.  However, spouses report caring for a depressed husband is the most difficult. 

Male depression is associated with changes in traditional roles, such as breadwinner, strong man, decision maker and losses associated with retirement, death of friends and relatives.  Failure to recognize that the man you care for is depressed and helping to get him into treatment for depression will make your life very difficult. 

If you are seeing signs of persistent sadness, changes in sleep patterns, changes in eating patterns and a general lack of interest in anything, you should inform his health care provider.  If you’re seeing increased drinking or angry outbursts, report that as well.

Depression in older adults responds very well to a range of treatments from talking therapy to simple medications or exercise programs.  Depression doesn’t only impact the person with the depression, it also affects you: Get Help. For more information about programs available to treat depression, call our main number 203-785-8533 and ask for Bev Kidder.