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The Role of Male Support Groups in Dealing with Depression

The Role of Male Support Groups in Dealing with Depression

Depression can affect anyone, regardless of their background. However, men often face unique challenges when it comes to acknowledging and seeking help for their mental health struggles. This can be for many different reasons. For example, societal expectations of masculinity can make it difficult for men to open up about their feelings and seek support. One way that men can get support for their mental health that is becoming increasingly popular through organisations like Andy’s Man Club and Man Gang, are mental health support groups for men. In this article I discuss some of the benefits using these groups and how they are a useful way for men to get support, whilst not being a replacement necessarily, for professional support.

 

Understanding Depression in Men

Depression manifests differently in men compared to women. While some symptoms may overlap, men are more likely to experience irritability, anger, and aggression rather than sadness and crying spells. Common signs of depression in men include changes in sleep patterns, loss of interest in activities, and physical symptoms such as headaches or digestive problems. Despite these symptoms, many men hesitate to seek help due to the fear of being perceived as weak or vulnerable. Sometimes men may not even realise there is an issue to begin with as insight can be lost. For many men, they may feel their anger is justified, without realising it is a symptom of their mental health.

 

What are Male Support Groups?

Male support groups provide a safe and non-judgmental space for men to express their thoughts and feelings, share their experiences, and receive support from others who may be going through similar struggles. These groups can take various forms, including in-person meetings, online forums, or therapy sessions led by mental health professionals. The main goal of these support groups is to provide emotional support, encouragement, and camaraderie to help men navigate their mental health challenges.

During in-person events, men may sit around a table, perhaps with some snacks and drinks present, and talk to eachother openly about their troubles. Alongside a trained co-ordinator, other men may chip in and provide their advice, reassurance and support or share their own similar stories.

Online events may be similar, but ofcourse they can lack the closer camaraderie felt during in-person events.

Group therapy such as the examples in the link, are run by professional therapists and may be free or paid. They are often a more affordable way of getting support rather than paying for one to one therapy but are considered as effective.

 

Benefits of Male Support Groups

There are many benefits to male mental health support groups for men. These include:

1. Safe Space: Male support groups provide a safe and non-judgmental environment where men can freely express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences without fear of criticism or stigma, alongside other men who are in a similar vulnerable position.

2. Emotional Support: Members of support groups can offer each other emotional support, empathy, and understanding, helping men feel less isolated and alone in their struggles with mental health issues. Receiving support from peers and equals can feel empowering, bring about friendship and ease the feeling of being isolated.

3. Camaraderie: Support groups foster a sense of camaraderie and brotherhood among members, creating bonds that extend beyond the confines of meetings and providing a network of support during difficult times.

4. Coping Strategies: One of the beauties of thes groups is the ability for everyone to share coping strategies, tools, and techniques for managing stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges, empowering men to take control of their well-being. Men can not only learn from others, but also gain insight into whether the way they are coping now is healthy or not, through direct feedback from peers.

5. Peer Learning: Support groups offer opportunities for peer learning and mutual growth, allowing men to learn from each other’s experiences, perspectives, and successes in overcoming mental health obstacles.

6. Practical Assistance: In addition to emotional support, support groups may also offer practical assistance, such as connecting members with community resources, providing information on mental health services, or offering assistance with practical tasks like job searching or housing.

They provide a sense of belonging and validation, knowing that they are not alone in their struggles. Being able to connect with others who understand their experiences can reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.

 

Finding the Right Support Group

Finding the right support group is essential for men seeking help for depression. There are a large number of groups in the UK, but it’s essential to research available options and consider factors such as the group’s focus, location, meeting format, and the dynamics of its members. Some men may prefer face-to-face meetings, while others may feel more comfortable participating in online support groups. It’s crucial to find a group where they feel accepted, understood, and supported.

Some groups may not be gender specific but may be dedicated to certain professions and these can be useful for some. Speaking with and meeting people from a similar background can help members relate to eachothers feelings and struggles. Doctors in the UK, for example, could consider trying Doctors In Distress.

 

Testimonials and Success Stories

Speaking with real men in real life can lead to hearing about real-life testimonials and success stories, which for many men, can provide inspiration and hope. Learning how others came from a dark place to an improved place, can really help men to reflect and see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even from the darkest of places. Support groups can motivate men to take the first step towards seeking help for their mental health. These testimonials serve as a reminder that recovery is possible and that they are not alone in their journey.

 

Professional Guidance and Resources

While support groups can be immensely beneficial, they are not a substitute for professional mental health treatment. It’s essential for men dealing with depression to seek guidance from doctors, qualified mental health professionals, such as therapists or counsellors, who can provide individualised treatment and support. Additionally, there are various resources available, such as hotlines, online therapy platforms, and self-help books, that can complement the support provided by support groups.

 

Summary

Male support groups play a vital role in helping men deal with depression and other mental health issues. By providing a safe and supportive space for men to share their experiences, receive encouragement, and learn coping strategies, support groups can empower men to take control of their mental health and embark on a journey of healing and recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, consider reaching out to a male support group or seeking professional help. Remember, you are not alone, and there is support available to help you through difficult times.

 

FAQs

1. Are male support groups only for men with depression?
– No, male support groups will welcome men dealing with various mental health issues, as well as those facing life challenges such as relationship problems, work stress, or grief.

2. How often do male support groups meet?
– The frequency of meetings varies depending on the group. Some may meet weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. It’s essential to find a group with a meeting schedule that fits your availability and needs.

3. Can I join a support group if I’m not comfortable sharing my feelings?
– Absolutely. While sharing is encouraged, there is no pressure to disclose more than you feel comfortable with. Many men benefit from simply listening to others and offering support without sharing their own experiences.

4. Are male support groups confidential?
– Yes, confidentiality is a fundamental aspect of support groups. Members are expected to respect each other’s privacy and keep

 

 

Written by Dr Junaid Hussain

GP and founder of Man Confidence.