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How to help your man deal with depression

Men and women are inherently different we know that right? But, on closer inspection, it's our less physical traits that truly separate the genders. In the battle of the sexes, men may defy the odds physically but women come up trumps in how they deal with their emotions.

This is most evident in how the two sexes deal with grief and depression. Generally, when women get depressed, they cry, talk and, more importantly, ask for help. When men display symptoms of depression, however, they tend to become moody and angry and will most often deny that there's a problem. Where does this leave you, the supportive partner, desperate to help them? This is the guide every woman needs to understand how her partner deals with depression to learn how she can help him find the happiness he deserves.

How do guys deal with depression... and why?
Men are socialised to be strong. Sadness, tears and any sign of emotion are seen as signs of weakness. We've all heard the saying real men don't cry!' So, while you're dealing with your depression by meeting friends for cups of coffee or spending weepy hours on the phone with Mom, your partner will withdraw from you and the world around him and refuse to admit that he's unhappy.

Is it depression or is he just sad?
Life is not a bed of roses and both men and women are often sad sometimes for a morning and sometimes for a week. But, when does sadness turn into depression? A good rule of thumb is that, if any of the following symptoms persist for more than two to four weeks, the person is probably depressed and should consult a doctor.

  • Sad mood/ hopeless and pessimistic
  • Lack of interest in hobbies and other activities
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Decrease or increase in appetite
  • Physical complaints
  • Thoughts of death/suicide
  • Cannot concentrate/forgetful
  • Loss of energy/fatigue
  • Loss of confidence/low self-worth
  • Cannot perform at work

How do you help?
Most men would rather clean out the garage than talk about their feelings. If you think that your partner is depressed it might be counterproductive to try to get him to open up' to you. Simply ask him if he has noticed a change in his mood and if he would be open to getting help. Suggest that he consults with a doctor that he trusts or gets help from a psychologist or psychiatrist. A good idea is to ask a male figure that he is close to speak to him and suggest he gets help an uncle, brother or friend.

Top Tips

  • Never take his mood personally
  • Don't be judgemental
  • Shower him with love and affection and be patient and supportive
  • Help him to avoid stressful situations now might not be the best time to organise that family reunion
  • Try not to get frustrated because he refuses to talk to you or admit that anything is wrong

The pain inside
Statistics from Australia show that more men commit suicide than women even though women suffer more from depression than men. Why is this? Sadly, men do not get the help they need to treat depression and resort not only to substance and alcohol abuse but also to taking their own lives. As a mother, wife or partner, try and help the guy in your life to understand that it's ok to be sad and vulnerable and to ask for help - and that neither are a sign of weakness!

Resources
If you need help dealing with your partner's depression or anxiety, contact The South African Depression and Anxiety Group's Mental Health line on 011 262 6396 or visit their website at www.sadag.org for more info on depression and even a depression test. SADAG also hosts a number of support groups for those suffering from depression and anxiety many of which are run by men.

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