Every year in November, men proudly grow a moustache to show that men’s health matters to them. Even buses in some Australian cities are decorated with a mo! It’s a fun idea and a great way to raise funds, but the campaign draws attention to one of the most serious issues globally – men’s mental health. Around the world, 60 men die by suicide every hour.
How does the month of Movember help to improve men’s lives?
The organisers and supporters of Movember, as well as health professionals internationally, recognise that by assisting men who are dealing with depression to build social connections and by showing them that it’s OK to seek help, we can save lives. Movember is a time to let everyone know that depression is widespread amongst men of all ages, and we need to talk about it openly and work together to support the men in our lives.
What are the causes of depression?
In order to work together and talk about it openly, we need to better understand the root causes of depression.
Dr Werner Sattmann-Frese, Senior Lecturer at Torrens University Australia, says that the term ‘depression’ is used to describe a range of mood-related symptoms, from minor episodes to the debilitating disorder of clinical depression. While it’s commonly thought that depression is caused by genetic factors or abnormalities in the part of the brain that sends messages between nerve cells, many psychiatrists and other health professionals now use four perspectives to understand the causes of depression. They are:
As Dr Sattmann-Frese explains that this perspective links depression with early experiences of insecure attachment and, in more serious cases, with abandonment, neglect and abuse as a child. ‘Early developmental influences may affect our ability to cope in trauma-related situations in later life,’ he says. ‘The trauma-orientated perspective can also apply to people who have not been abused or neglected as such, but who have grown up with parents who were highly stressed.’
This perspective focuses on the link between the mind and the body – where muscular tensions keep traumatic experiences unconscious but still in our body. ‘We can see this mechanism in action when we consciously or unconsciously brace ourselves on the expectation of pain and discomfort, for example in the dentist’s chair,’ Dr Sattmann-Frese explains.
The Somatic perspective draws on the idea that depression comes from a trauma that blocks people’s life energy. This might sound unusual to people from Western societies, but Dr Sattmann-Frese points out that ‘such an understanding of energy and energy flow has a very long tradition in Eastern cultures that use Tai Chi, Yoga, Kum Nye, Chi Gong, and many other “energy distribution” and harmonisation systems’.
The functional perspective suggests that episodes of depression can pull us to a halt if we are leading emotionally unsustainable lives and lead us to challenge our core beliefs and ‘replace unsustainable perceptions, beliefs, and behaviours with more emotionally, socially and ecologically sustainable ones,’ says Dr Sattmann-Frese. This positive view of depression might surprise some people.
Political and ecological perspective
Increasingly, health professionals recognise that ongoing stresses in our society and the broad belief that something is not right in our community can lead to depression in individuals. An example is the concern across the population about climate change – it can trigger fear, anger, exhaustion and a sense of powerlessness, which in turn can bring on episodes of depression.
How can you help someone who has depression?
Although it is a complex condition, you can support someone who has depression. The best way to start is by listening and inviting the person to have a conversation. Ask them how they are feeling, and if they say they are fine, don’t be afraid to ask again. Trust your instincts and take those instincts seriously if you think someone you know is experiencing depression. Men, especially, often aren’t comfortable talking about how they are feeling.
If you’re concerned that someone’s life is in danger, call 000 or go to emergency services. You’ll find a list of useful numbers on the Movember support page.
How is Public Health helping to increase the awareness of depression and combat it?
Public Health professionals are at the forefront of raising awareness of depression and developing ways to treat it. They connect patients with mental health services in their local area and work with government agencies such as the National Mental Health Commission to carry out research into what is and isn’t working in mental health and suicide prevention.
Reaching into every area of our society, Public Health workers offer education and support in workplace intervention for the prevention of depression; educational intervention to prevent loneliness in older people; and school-based education and prevention programs for depression in boys and young men, among many other programs and services. With their medical skills as well as their practical understating of the communities they work in, these professionals assess what intervention and support individuals will accept, and how to offer help that will be effective.
You can read more about Movember and how you can get involved HERE.
*Information came from 'An Holistic Understanding of Depression' by Werner Sattmann-Frese PhD, unpublished.