Men tell themselves to ‘man up’ rather than seeking help for mental health issues

Men with depression tell of how society is a barrier to getting the help they need.

DUBAI // Many men with depression are unable to recognise the symptoms and do not know where to seek help.

Support groups are few and therapy is expensive, as insurers often do not cover it.

R F, a British expatriate, had panic attacks for months but did not know he was depressed. At the point of collapse, he was admitted to hospital a few times but only after a meeting a psychiatrist by chance did he get help.

“I just didn’t really know what was wrong and I didn’t know where to find help,” the Dubai resident said.

R F found it difficult getting out of bed. He wanted to sleep all day and preferred being alone.

“There was an element of ‘man up’ and I told myself ‘there isn’t anything wrong with you’,” he said. “We men don’t talk about it until we have to.

“I didn’t talk about it until I had to go into hospital a couple of times feeling like I was going to pass out and not knowing what was wrong.”

He has since recovered and sees a therapist every fortnight.

P A, an expatriate in Dubai, had symptoms for 10 months before he sought help.

“It became extremely difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep,” he said. “I could only sleep for an hour or two every night.

“I also hated going out with friends. I just wanted to be by myself all the time. I realised that I couldn’t continue and needed to see a therapist.”

One of his main concerns was that no one found out.

“The man is supposed to be a rock,” P A said. “Everything is supposed to bounce off – stress, emotions, anger. You’re supposed to just accept it.”

An Emirati man in Abu Dhabi who has been through phases of depression also blamed stereotypes for fewer men admitting their problems.

“The problem stems from the fact that the ‘eastern’ male needs to project a specific stereotype that’s partially incompatible with the characteristics of a modern man,” he said.

“So when it comes to deeper issues such as mental illness, the individual is under an enormous pressure to reveal his true self, which might be the total opposite to what he’s trying to falsely project from day to day.

“Dealing with the problem through putting it into words and communicating it directly to another person isn’t something we are used to here.”