Men’s Mental Health in the UAE – The complete interview
It is looking at whether men’s mental health is taken less seriously than a woman.
Men are much less likely to seek out medical treatment of any kind. This applies especially to mental health. If and when men do seek out treatment their symptoms are going to be more severe. They will often wait until they can’t tolerate their symptoms anymore. This creates a strange situation in the clinic. When a man does come in for treatment he tends to be taken too seriously. Women have often complained that men get taken more seriously than them. Studies do support this. What this means is not always favourable. If a man comes in and talks about how he is having trouble sleeping his lack of sleep might be exaggerated by the healthcare provider. There is often an assumption that men minimize their symptoms even when talking to the doctor. Also, it is an assumption that men a poor historians of their own behaviour and thus are not going to answer the doctor’s questions accurately.
Do you think this is the case?
I see many men in my practice yet not in line with our population that is heavily male. Even in Dubai men still avoid seeking treatment. I will often see men who have suffered for years with anxiety and depression.
Despite Dr. Google I see many men who believe that their condition can’t really be treated and thus there is no point in going to a doctor. In truth, most conditions respond very quickly to treatment. Often they fear taking medication. This logical caution is often not really well thought out. Not all medications are equal and they really have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
What factors can lead a man to suffer from depression or anxiety?
First thing we will explore is if there is a family history of depression and/or anxiety. If you have a first-degree relative with a mental health history then you have a much higher chance of suffering at some point in your life. This is far from a death sentence. I often call the most diagnosed form of anxiety GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) the common cold of psychiatry. There is no need to suffer with this or avoid treatment. Get is sorted and get back to your life.
The other thing we look at is the man’s general state of health. Is he diabetic? Is he vitamin D deficient? Men can have this problem as well. We will often screen for illnesses that are thought of as more physical.
The quickest way to cause depression and/or anxiety is to eat poorly, make sure you never get regular sleep and make sure you never get enough sleep. Even if you lack significant stress or a family history this would be the riskiest thing you could do to effect your health.
When we think of stress it is not just people who work too much. If you enjoy your work and your family supports this then even working 10-hour days can be fine for your health. Frequent air travel however, is stressful to our body. Frequent air travel stresses the limbic part of the brain and this must be accommodated by making sure diet and exercise balance this out.
Lastly, us men are not very good at talking about our feelings. I often hear men say what is the point of just talking! My response is, this is how human being connect to each other but it is not the only way. Being part of a sports team can also comfort and support our emotions. Spending time with your family and doing acts of service can touch our emotions. Not everything needs to be done verbally but we do need to know what we feel and respond with compassion.
Can depression strike across all society segments such as blue collar workers and white collar workers?
Depression does not respect any class divisions. In most places the less money you have the less discretionary time you have. This, combined with perhaps having less access to health care often means that blue collar workers are less likely to seek out treatment.
What can be done to address men’s mental health?
Men have to stop thinking that if they ignore their symptoms then they will eventually go away. Would you take the same approach at work? Would you treat your new car the same way? Most of us will take our car in for service especially if it’s already paid for in the price of the car. Take a look at how you are sleeping. Have you had a major change in work, your weight or how your mood is? Are you getting complaints from your family or friends? How well or badly are you treating yourself. Get a good history of how you are doing and perhaps it’s time to see your doctor to get an objective opinion. At least treat yourself as well as you would your car.