Stoic. Strong. Sturdy. Self-reliant. These words paint a picture of what it means to “be a man.” They mean men are independent, resilient problem solvers. But these same words make it difficult for men to seek help and remain engaged in health services long-term.
When it comes to depression, these words carry expectations. For men, these expectations contribute to their reluctance to seek help, or stay engaged in treatment.
One in ten men experience depression at some point in their lives. And men account for four out of five suicides. So it is clear that there is a need for services and support, but to reach these men, and keep them engaged, the strategy is as important as the treatment.
In a new study looking at men with depression, MHR researchers examined the experiences of men in treatment and identified how targeted resources and strategies could engage men once they chose to seek support services.
According to Zac Seidler, a researcher on the study, keeping men engaged and active in their own health and outcomes, is the key takeaway to reducing drop-out rates. “What we are finding is that more and more men are willing to push past the barriers and seek help, but the clinicians approach once they are in the room is at the core of men’s disengagement with services.”
Getting men in the door is only half the battle. The question is how to keep a visit from being a one-off. How do you get men to come back?
The study found that when men experienced a lack of orientation to treatment, authoritative clinician approaches, and generic treatment, they were less likely to return for a follow-up, and were more likely to disregard any advice or results.
“It’s clear that there is a disconnect between the men’s expectations of treatment, and what was really offered to them,” said Seidler. Men wanted their experiences to be more tailored. “Psychologists need to realize that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ treatment just isn’t going to cut it with a man that is trying to find reason not to be there.”
This points to the need for personalized, collaborative, and action-oriented strategies to treatment. “Men want to know what they are signing up for, how long it might take, what outcomes they can expect, and what practical skills they can learn to help themselves outside of the therapy room” said Seidler.
So, how can this be achieved?
Seidler calls on clinicians to make the first move, “We need to look to the man’s strengths and the first step is providing clinicians with training in understanding the complex role of masculinity in depression, to empower and engage the male client.”