Men and Depression

Researchers estimate that more than six million men in the United States have a depressive disorder—about one-third of all adults living with depression in any given year. However, men are less likely than women to recognize, acknowledge, and seek treatment for their depression. In addition, their loved ones and even their physicians may not always detect depressive symptoms in men.

Depression is a serious medical condition that can affect both men and women. A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely “pull themselves together” and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression.

Symptoms of Depression may include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Trouble sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain, which do not respond to routine treatment

Research and clinical findings reveal that while both men and women can develop the standard symptoms of depression, they often experience depression differently and may have different ways of coping with the symptoms. Men may be more willing to acknowledge fatigue, irritability, loss of interest in work or hobbies, and sleep disturbances rather than feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and excessive guilt, which are commonly associated with depression in women. Men may turn to alcohol or street drugs when they are depressed instead of seeking appropriate medical treatment. Men with depression may become frustrated, discouraged, angry, irritable and, sometimes, violently abusive. Some men may deal with depression by throwing themselves compulsively into their work; others may respond to depression by engaging in reckless behavior, taking risks, and putting themselves in harm’s way. Depression is a risk factor for suicide, and there is an alarming rate of completed suicide among men in the U.S. – particularly older, white men and younger, black men.

Campaign Concept

Taking a new approach of men talking directly to other men, NIMH worked with a distinguished documentary filmmaker, Leslie Wiener, who filmed men as they spoke candidly about their experiences with depression. The many hours of unscripted conversations with a wide spectrum of men (including military personnel, a firefighter, an architect, a writer, a publisher, an undercover police officer, a student, and a retired CEO) have been edited to produce public service announcements (PSAs) for television. The men filmed gave permission to use their full names and professions, and they are active participants in the campaign.

By sharing their personal stories of depression, treatment, and recovery, these men are helping NIMH reach out to increase public awareness of depression in men, and are making a powerful contribution to help other men recognize depression.




A widespread press announcement will launch the campaign in April 2003. A program to notify doctors, to include psychiatrists, psychologists, and primary care physicians, is in development.

Campaign materials will include the television PSAs as well as radio and print PSAs featuring the same men. In addition, an interactive Web site accessible from the NIMH home page will extend the reach of the campaign. Free print publications about men and depression will be available after the campaign launch and can be ordered by phone (toll-free), Internet, fax, or regular mail.

National Institute of Mental Health
Real Men. Real Depression.

Office of Communications
Information Resources and Inquiries Branch
6001 Executive Boulevard
Room 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663

Toll-Free: 1-866-227-NIMH (-6464)
FAX: 1-301-443-4279
TTY: 1-301-443-8431
FAX4U: 1-301-443-5158

February 03, 2003