Big boys don’t cry

Denise Wright

Why men hesitate to use mental health services

It must be challenging to be a “real” man.

According to Bruce Feirstein’s best-selling humor book, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, real men also don’t floss, play Frisbee or buy flight insurance. Let’s not forget the oh-so-popular urban myth that real men don’t cry.

Truth is, “real” men do floss and play Frisbee, and they definitely do cry.

According to “Depression in Men — How to Recognize It and What to Do About It,” an article reviewed for the WebMD Web site in July 2007, at least 6 million men in the U.S. suffer from depression. This number may be much higher considering the difficulty in identifying depression in men.

In past years, men were diagnosed with depression about one-tenth as much as women, but newer research proposes that men can just hide feelings better than women.

John Akamatsu, psychology professor and director of the Psychological Clinic, agreed.

“I think the (alpha male) stereotype is true,” he said. “Guys want to be seen as tough and not needing help from others.”

“They don’t want to seek help,” Akamatsu continued, referencing the old belief that men never ask for directions. “They want to figure it out on their own, or they want to put their feelings on the back burner until they get so bad they can’t be ignored anymore.”

This is quite alarming considering although women attempt suicide at least two times more often than men, four times as many men die from suicide, according to the National Institute of Mental Health Web site.

Akamatsu said most of the students who come into the Psychological Clinic are dealing with depression or anxiety issues. He added that although there is no official record, he estimates males make up about 40 percent of the individuals who come in, suggesting that the trend of males not seeking help may be changing.

“I think that, generally speaking, men are starting to see the benefits more,” Akamatsu said. “Plus, we see that men and women are becoming more androgynous, and they’re sharing qualities of both sexes, which is especially common in college.”

Overall, Akamatsu advises anyone who may be feeling depressed to seek professional help, adding that bottling issues up will only send an individual into a “downward spiral.”

“Every case is different, but I think once you start talking to somebody about what’s going on that helps as a beginning point,” he said. “It will increase their motivation to come in as they see the benefits that come from it (psychotherapy).

“There are so many low cost or free services on campus, and people should take advantage of them,” Akamatsu added. “When you get to the point where you don’t have the answers anymore, it’s time to come in.”

Defining and identifying depression

Depression is more than just “feeling down.” It is a major interruption in a person’s usual way of thinking, feeling and acting, usually lasting for weeks or months at a time. In general, symptoms of depression include:

• Loss of energy

• Problems sleeping and concentrating

• Sadness and loss of interest in activities that are usually enjoyable

• Thoughts about death or suicide

These symptoms are usually more common for women, although men can display them. In general, however, men tend to show less sadness and more irritability or aggressiveness. Men are also more likely to drink more or act recklessly.


On campus support services

Psychological Clinic

176 Kent Hall, 330-672-2372,

Counseling & Human Development Center

325 White Hall, 330-672-2208,

University Health Services Psychological Services

Second floor of the DeWeese Health Center, 330-672-2487,

Contact features reporter Denise Wright at [email protected].