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Understanding depression symptoms in men

June 10, 2024
Dan Kearsley

Did you know that suicide is the leading cause of death for men under the age of 50? There are numerous factors which can contribute to a person taking their own life and every case is different. However, we do know that mental health awareness and talking about our mental health can reduce the risk of suicide.

Sadly, many men struggle to talk about their mental health. One study found that as many as 40% of men have never spoken to anyone about their mental health, with 29% of those saying that it was because they’re too embarrassed to speak about it and 20% saying there is negative stigma around the issue.

Society’s expectations and traditional gender roles contribute to the stigma that men feel when it comes to talking about their mental health. Men often feel pressured to come across as strong, powerful and dominant, which can make it difficult for them to be vulnerable, share their emotions or admit that they need help.

Other reasons why men may feel unable to open up include a lack of awareness, not having anyone to talk to or not wanting to burden people. 22% of men said that they wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to a mental health professional or their GP, with most citing the reason that they wouldn’t want to waste anyone’s time.

Certain groups are more likely to be affected by mental health issues, like minority communities, people with lower incomes and war veterans have higher rates of suicide. Research by Samaritans shows that middle aged men who are less well off are particularly likely to die by suicide.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, remember that it’s not a sign of weakness, there’s nothing to be ashamed of and you’re not alone. It can help to learn more about mental health in order to understand how to manage it, but there’s also help available. If you need to speak to someone immediately, Samaritans listening service is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 116 123 for free.

What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder, which affects how you think, feel and behave. It can lead to a range of emotional and physical symptoms, from feeling low or hopeless to changes in appetite or sleeping patterns - we’ve written more about this here. Depending on how severe your symptoms are you may find doing normal day-to-day activities difficult, stop enjoying the things that you used to and sometimes you may feel as if life isn't worth living.

How does depression impact men?

Anyone can experience depression, however it can affect different people in different ways. Research by the Mental Health Foundation found that men are more likely to experience symptoms like anger, irritability, risk-taking and aggression than women. Men are also less likely to access psychological therapies than women, and many turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their depression, rather than talking about it. Three times as many men die by suicide than women.

What can trigger depression?

While depression has no clear single cause, sometimes, an episode of depression can be triggered by a difficult life-changing event or a build-up of smaller stresses. On the other hand, some spells of depression don’t have an obvious trigger and you may struggle to understand where these feelings are coming from.  

Triggers of depression might include:

  • Divorce or relationship problems
  • Loneliness
  • Financial stress
  • Pressures in the workplace  
  • Illness
  • Becoming a parent
  • Drug or alcohol abuse.  
  • Redundancy
  • Bereavement  

Taking charge of your mental health

Talk to someone you trust

Confiding in a friend or family member about how you’re feeling can help to lift the weight of mental health. Contrary to what some people might think, talking about your mental health is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s incredibly brave to put yourself in a vulnerable position where you’re sharing how you feel.

There’s a good feeling that comes from opening up and being listened to; voicing our feelings can help us to release tension and let go of negative emotions, rather than dwelling on them. It can also help us to process our emotions and make sense of a situation which enables us to move forwards.

When we open up to the people in our lives, they realise that they’re able to open up to us too. This can have a ripple effect within our friendship and family dynamics, creating a culture where it’s safe - and even normal - to talk about our feelings.

Invest in self-care

How well we take care of ourselves can make a big difference to our mental health. When we’re feeling low, it can be difficult to stick to our normal routine, but things like eating balanced meals at regular times, spending time outdoors, getting plenty of sleep and waking up at the same time each day can boost our mood.  

We should also make time to do something that allows us to unwind and recharge. You could do something relaxing, like reading or breathing exercises, or any hobbies or activities that make you feel good, like playing sports, music or hanging out with a friend. Anything that prioritises our wellbeing is a form of self-care.

Seek professional help

Mental health disorders are like physical health problems; the longer you leave them, the worse they can get. That’s why it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. As a first step, you could reach out to your GP, who might suggest medication or talking therapy.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective way to manage anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. CBT helps you to challenge negative thoughts and behaviours and gives you the tools to manage your mental health.  

At ieso, we offer typed CBT, where our patient and therapists ‘speak’ by typing back and forward - this can be appealing if you’re worried about speaking to someone face-to-face. However, we also offer video call sessions in certain areas. Our service is flexible, remote and free for some NHS patients. Find out if you’re eligible here.  

Mental health resources for men:


Men’s Health Foundation

Andys Man Club

Men’s Health Forum



ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.

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