Middle-aged men can experience depression, and the challenges that these men endure also impact partners and family. Recognising that middle-aged men’s depression is often an issue affecting couples, we talked with men who experienced depression and their female partners.
In talking with the men about their depression, many of them discussed suicide. So we looked at what all the men said about how depression and suicide could connect.  We learned that severe depression leads men to think about suicide, and those thoughts were dealt with in two ways. The first, countering by connection, meant that men connected to their family, and used that as motivation to seek help and/or self-manage their depression. In the other pathway, contemplating escape, men talked about how they could isolate and overuse alcohol and other drugs to deal with their depression and thoughts about suicide. Unfortunately this pathway took men toward self-harm. Listen to John Oliffe, one of the authors, talk about the findings in this article here. Psychologist Damon Elgie also talks about the article, and hear what Jonathan, a man who has experienced depression, says about the findings.
We were also interested about how men found help for their depression, and Joy Johnson, the lead author on this article, talks about the findings here. In brief, the results showed that men framed seeking help as manly and responsible, or with some uncertainty unless it was in desperation as a last resort. We also learned that men valued genuine connection with their doctor. Psychiatrist, Jennifer Wide, read the article and she shares her thoughts about the findings here.
Talking with couples also proved very interesting, and Sabrina Wong, one of the authors on our article connecting gender relations and men’s depression, discusses the findings here. We found couple’s fit into two main patterns. Trading places, where depression lead some men to function as homemakers and women as breadwinners. Business as usual, refers to couples who tended to conceal men’s depression and continued to operate more traditionally despite many challenges. Jonathan and his wife Jennifer talk about their depression-related ‘couple’ experiences here.
Stephanie Coen, a PhD candidate, talks about how couples in a northern resource-based Canadian community, Prince George, deal with men’s depression here. The findings showed that most couples worked to privately manage men’s depression but resisted buying into cultures that demand men be strong and stoic traditional breadwinners.
Joan Bottorff, the lead author of the article, ‘Surviving men’s depression: Women partners’ perspectives’, talks about the findings in that article here. She explains that many women resist being the emotional caregiver while shouldering family responsibilities and assisting men to get professional help. Also, Jennifer talks about her experiences in relation to this article here.
We have summarised all the findings about middle-aged men’s depression in this interactive booklet. You can read this online and many pages link to helpful videos and podcasts. You can also download the booklet, send it to a friend and e-vite others to visit this website.