Erasing the stigma of men's depression

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By Kelly Snider

AWARENESS. After the death of Robin William's, an opportunity was seized by the mental health advocacy community to raise awareness surrounding men's depression. This is exactly what Orléans man Jean-Francois Claude, founder of The Men's D.E.N, has done, as he posted a blog that focused on unmasking men's depression.

In June, Mayor Jim Watson and Orléans Councillor bob Monette presented Claude with the official Proclamation marking June 10, 2014 as Men's Mental Health Awareness Day in Ottawa.

"Part of the challenge particularly for men is that we're sort of culturally conditioned to put forward sort of a strong face," said Claude. "We're told boys don't cry, suck it up, move on, and frankly what all that really does it makes us internalize a lot of emotions."

Claude said it puts an expectation that men can't show weakness and have to put forward a strong persona regardless of what we are faced with.

However, Claude said there is a double meaning when referring to unmasking men's depression.

"There are many men out there that are covertly living with depression, experiencing symptoms and are either not recognizing what it is, or frankly the stigma in terms of perceiving oneself to be weak, unworthy, and afraid to get help."

Claude said one step could be going to your family doctor, which is exactly what he did.

"It was through my GP that I was essentially diagnosed and later confirmed by a psychologist."

Claude was diagnosed with Double Depression in 2012 at the age of 40. Later, he was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder. He turned his adversity in advocacy for men's mental health, and started the website TheMensDEN.ca (The Men's Depression Education Network). The website offers online information, resources, and e-tools focussed on depression in men.

"One of the reasons I put the website together was for a first or second step for those to read up on depression, the signs and symptoms, treatment options available, and resources to help get a meaning of A) comfort level of what they might be facing and B) getting a sense of what the next steps are."

Claude said there is still so much to learn about depression and mental health in general.

"I think the challenge is that there is a biological basis for depression but a combination of factors. Biology might be at play, you withdraw from social circles, your thought patterns are impacted, energy levels depleted, and sometimes it takes a lot of effort to just get out the door."

Claude said when it comes to being on the other side, a family member of someone experience depression; the important thing to remember is it is not your job to try and fix it, but to support the individual.

"The path to recovery is different for everyone. Some refuse to take medication, so they can explore other ways like better diet, exercise, or meditation. It is not a one size fits all."

Another aspect, no matter which side of things you are on, is to share your story.

"There is a lot of power in sharing you story. It is not always easy, but this is something I have done, and it has empowered me."

Claude said there is still a lot of work to be done to minimize the stigma around depression and mental health in general.

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