Toxic Masculinity Can Cause Depression

by Jason Frerichs

I’m a man who suffers from clinical depression.  I have a diagnosis and everything. It runs in my family.  Three years ago I was Mr. Fitness. I was in nearly as good of shape as I was when I was a college athlete.  I won a triathlon. I gained 150 lbs. in three years because I let my depression go untreated. I think that toxic masculinity prevented me from reaching out for help until it became too much to bear on my own.  It feels icky to talk about my feelings. It’s something that is completely outside of my wheelhouse and a foreign concept. For most of my life, I’ve bottled it up until it exploded. Men are taught not to express any emotion other than anger.  We’re supposed to be in control at all times. We’re supposed to be John Wayne and Arnold Schwarzenegger all rolled into one. God forbid you display any feminine characteristics. If you aren’t the spitting image of the Marlboro man something must be wrong with you.

According to the Harvard Mental Health Center, 10% to 17% of men will suffer a major depressive episode at some point in their life.  Four times as many men die from suicide compared to women. Depression can lead to suicide.  If you’re suffering, it’s okay to reach out. In fact, it can literally save your life. Men who suffer from untreated depression have an increased risk of having a heart attack or a stroke.  It is estimated that more than 5 million men in the US suffer from depression.  Here are 12 signs of depression in men.

  •       Fatigue
  •       Sleeping too much or too little
  •       Stomach Ache or backache
  •       Irritability
  •       Difficulty concentrating
  •       Anger or hostility
  •       Stress
  •       Anxiety
  •       Substance abuse
  •       Sexual dysfunction
  •       Indecision
  •       Suicidal thoughts

If you are struggling with these symptoms, please reach out and get help.  Especially if you are feeling suicidal. If you live in Iowa, you can call 1-800-273-8255.  Talk to someone, even if it’s anonymous.

There isn’t anything manly about suffering in silence.  There isn’t anything unmanly about exploring your feelings and trying to get to the bottom of why you are in pain.  In order to be better allies, we must understand how the toxicity of society has affected us. Being bitter and angry is not healthy and only drives other people away.  One of the first steps we can take to smash the patriarchy is to heal ourselves. We can cry and still be men. We can nurture and still be men. Good men build each other up and help the young men that will be coming after them.  By being our authentic selves and being in tune with our full range of emotions, we can break the chains of toxic masculinity and help create a safer and more equitable world for the women and nonbinary people in our lives. Solidarity forever, for we make each other strong.

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