Young Irish women have some of the highest rates of depression in Europe. Moreover, they have considerably higher rates of depression than young Irish men. Depression and suicide go hand in hand. In fact, the crippling mental disorder is the most common condition associated with suicide.
Which begs the question: Why are considerably more young Irish men killing themselves than young Irish women?
Across the country, suicide is now the biggest killer of young men under the age of 25. For young women, on the other hand, suicide is the third leading cause of death.
Contrary to popular, trans-friendly belief, men and women are not the same. Our brains are literally wired differently, and this difference in wiring contributes to differences in behavior and cognition. The difference in wiring also plays a role in the ways in which men and women experience depression.
Unlike female depression, which tends to revolve around feeling unloved or feeling useless to the people they love, male depression tends to revolve around feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. Women need to feel cared for, appreciated, and helpful. Men require purpose; they also require the ability to effectively change their environment and create a lasting impact. They are far more interested in finding solutions than having their feelings validated, In other words, men want answers, and they want them now. Asking a man to be vulnerable and to reveal his deepest, darkest fears is of little help if immediate, practical solutions aren’t offered.
For men, feeling unable to positively affect their environment appears to be the catalyst for deep depression. If depression is left undiagnosed and untreated, suicidal feelings may set in. We tend to associate depression with feelings of sadness. Quite often, however, depressed males don’t present with classic symptoms. Instead, they tend to be hostile, impulsive and highly antagonistic. A depressed female is more likely to cry; a depressed male is more likely to yell and lash out. For many readers, aggression and depression might seem like odd bedfellows, but that’s only because we are viewing male depression through a female-oriented lens.
Sadly, modern day psychiatric textbooks fail to acknowledge the above facts. Moreover, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), a diagnostic “bible” used by doctors in Ireland and beyond, also fails to acknowledge these facts. Doctors are using a female model of depression to treat (or not treat) the men of Irealnd. It’s not that the average Irish male is experiencing depression less often than the average Irish female. It’s that he is experiencing and expressing it differently. Many in the medical community are not qualified to identify the symptoms of male depression.
In 1996, Dr. Wolfgang Rutz, then a pioneering psychiatrist, developed the first male depression scale. More recently, inspired by the work of Dr. Rutz, Dr. Simon Rice, a clinical psychologist in Australia, developed his own scale, known as the Male Depression Risk Scale. The scale, in Rice’s own words, was “designed to assess externalising depression symptoms (e.g., substance use, risk-taking, and aggression). These symptoms are theorised to reflect the behavioural manifestation of depression amongst men who rigidly conform to masculine norms.”
By “masculine norms,” Rice is referring to the average man’s tendency to keep his feelings to himself and to stubbornly refuse to ask for help. Dr. Rice’s scale asks men to rate various statements, including how often they suppress negative feelings, how often they fail to control their anger, and how often (if ever) they use drugs to escape their psychic pain. For reasons that have already been outlined, the scale does not ask men to rate feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
Why aren’t more psychologists and psychiatrists using the scale? In truth, many have never heard of it. This has got to change.
Something else that needs to change is the ratio of male to female psychologists in Ireland. In most European countries, at least 70 percent of psychological professionals are female. If given the choice, men prefer speaking to a male therapist — and no, this has nothing to do with sexism. Data confirms that men simply respond better to male therapists than they do to female therapists. Regrettably, in most European countries, Ireland included, there just aren’t enough male therapists to choose from.
The men of Ireland are suffering. Due to the lack of recognition of what male depression actually looks like and the lack of male professionals equipped with the tools to help men, we should expect this suffering to continue.
If you happen to be a man in the throes of unexplainable aggression and despair, please reach out to someone, to anyone at all. The bravery to ask for help could save your life.