Robin Williams’s death due to depression: Depressed men greater suicide risk

Robin Williams’s death due to depression: Depressed men greater suicide risk

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Robin Williams | Teddy Roosevelt
Robin Williams | Teddy Roosevelt

WASHINGTON, August 14, 2014  – Robin Williams was certainly not the only man in history who suffered depression. However, most men do not acknowledge depression because it is thought of as a weakness

New research has not only determined men suffer from depression at the same rates as women, but it has also been shown that men are four times more likely to commit suicide as a result of depression.

A longitudinal study, performed over a period of time to determine lasting effect, at Harvard University tested nearly 5, 700 American adults, 41percent of which were men. Using data from this study, health policy researchers from the University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University concluded men suffer from depression at the same rate as women.

Globally, mental health and substance abuse issues cause more illness, death and suicide than HIV, AIDS, diabetes, tuberculosis or auto accidents. This fact makes the new findings an important consideration for updating psychological criteria.

Mental health professionals have long suspected this phenomenon. Now research supports lingering doubts that men commit suicide at greater rates than women because men do not seek help and are far less likely to admit to being depressed. Many men do not know they are depressed because the dominant emotion they feel is anger, whereas women feel sadness.

Sigmund Freud, arguably the father of psychology, possibly psychiatry but definitely psychoanalysis, described depression as “anger turned inward.” Yet new evidentiary findings dispute Freud’s thinking—as new research often does—regarding these long-held beliefs.

A primary display of behavior in depressed men is outward anger and the assigning of blame. Risky behavior, road rage, short temper, loneliness, loss of interest, changes in appetite reduced energy, overworking, negativity and thoughts of death or suicide, substance abuse among other symptoms, are all behavioral hallmarks of male depression. The physical manifestation of male depression can be unexplained pain that does not respond to treatment.

Men are often in denial over depression and even if they suspect it, slow to seek help, as men view depression as weakness. Men own more weapons than women and have instant access to them when they feel overwhelmed. Accessibility to weapons may contribute to impulsive actions that result in death by suicide.

Men may be more comfortable discussing emotional issues with a primary care physician they have an established relationship with, rather than being referred to a mental healthcare specialist.  This makes training primary care specialists to detect and evaluate male depression critical.

When men behave as depression indicates, recommendations from friends, spouses or family members are often viewed as an intrusion and rejected. If a primary care physician recommends a visit to a mental health professional, there may be more serious consideration and less likelihood of rejection.

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