Men's Depression is Different

Charlie Martin here at PJM has a good piece on depression and men. In particular, he discusses the recent suicide of Bob Owens, a gun blogger who recently killed himself:


We lost one this week. Bob Owens, long time blogger and friend of many here at PJ Media, got to that point. He left an apology on Facebook, drove away from his home, and killed himself. I’m sure in those last minutes he was thinking that the pain was too much and that his family would be better off. It was an act of mercy and he wouldn’t really be missed.

Of course, he will be. His family will feel it. His two daughters will grow up with their father’s death as a backdrop of the rest of their lives. His wife will feel guilt, anger, grief, and shame. His friends, his associates, everyone who read his blogs, will know there’s a hole there that can’t easily be filled.

Charlie astutely mentions the unique symptoms when it comes to depression in men:

It isn’t a feeling of sadness. You’re irritable, irascible, short-tempered. Often, you feel unusually tired, often achy — it feels like you have a bit of a cold, or maybe the flu. You’re not hungry, or you’re hungry but nothing tastes good, nothing is appealing.

You start having trouble sleeping. Either you can’t get to sleep, or you get to sleep but wake up at 3 a.m., and can’t get back to sleep. Either way, you lie awake, and your thoughts start going to dark places — replaying humiliations from your past, or fantasizing trouble in your future.

When I heard about Bob Owens, I was heartbroken. Because as a psychologist, I know how much pain this man must have felt to have killed himself when he had two beautiful daughters. I have listened to men talk about these painful feelings for years, and I know that there is a good chance that some men will decide to do something differently than take their own life in the end. Some will not. What makes the difference? Someone who notices, cares and combats the distorted thoughts with the right words, therapy or both. Sometimes a difference can be made by changing an aspect of a person’s life in one area or helping others to understand what a depressed boy or man looks like, or feels like.


One client I had was a young man who was extremely depressed. His tests showed his depression at over the 90th percentile but the teachers at his school had no idea. They thought that depressed people sat home and ate chocolate or seemed sad, not irritable and ill-natured like this kid. I explained to them the symptoms of male depression and it helped them understand that irritability, anger and defensiveness were part of this kids’s depression. Once they understood what to watch for in this teen, we were able to work as a team with the school, his family and peers to help him to decrease his depression which in turn led to less anger and irritability and more success in school and at home.

Middle-aged and older men have a different set of problems but the solution is still the same: we must understand that men in our society get depressed, that the symptoms are often different than women’s and that these men are deserving of our compassion, care, and medical intervention that needs to be tailored to men’s issues and concerns and provided in ways that they can accept.

We say that there is a suicide crisis in our country but what we really need to address more in depth is male suicide. Men are 4-5 times more likely to take their lives. At the time I wrote my book, Men on Strike, the latest suicide statistics showed that of the 38,364 people who killed themselves in 2010, 30,277 were men. This is unacceptable. Bob Owens death is unacceptable. And face it, our biased, sexist society overlooks men’s suicides because it is mainly white men who kill themselves. Some barbaric people even celebrate this fact.


Bob Owens left a message on Facebook that read, “In the end, it turns out that I’m not strong. I’m a coward, and a selfish son of a bitch. I’m sorry.” The real cowards are those people who believe that human suffering is fine as long as you are a certain kind of male they do not approve of. I cannot stand by while good men suffer. I hope you can’t either.


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