Fighting men’s depression | SteamboatToday.com

Fighting men’s depression

Susan Cunningham

— In Routt County last year, five people committed suicide, and all were men.

The No. 1 cause of suicide is untreated depression. Men are least likely to seek treatment for depression and are most likely to die in their suicide attempts.

Reaching out to men who are struggling with depression is the goal of a local group recently formed with a grant from the Colorado Trust.

“We’re trying to open this up as a large public campaign to make people understand it’s OK to seek help, and it’s not embarrassing, and it’s not something to be ashamed of,” Suzi Mariano said about depression.

Mariano is involved with the “Reaching Everyone: Preventing Suicide” or REPS program, which spans Routt and Moffat counties with the help of the $150,000 grant.

To focus on men and depression, the REPS program is blanketing the Steamboat Springs and Craig communities with posters and doing radio and television advertisements, all telling the stories of men who deal with depression. The campaign, called “Real Men, Real Depression,” comes from the National Institute of Mental Health.

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One man featured in the campaign is firefighter Jimmy Brown, who describes dealing with depression during a typical day.

“There was many days … I just didn’t want to get out of bed,” he said in a testimonial on the NIMH Web site.

He said he would get out of bed to walk the dog and take his wife to work, then he would come back home.

“Some days, I’d get back in bed, some days I’d just sit on the couch and wonder what I was going to do next,” he said. “And not knowing, not knowing at all.”

Another man featured in the campaign is Patrick McCathern, who recently retired after 26 years as a first sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and calls depression the “super blues.”

“When you have the super blues, you can’t find (your) way back ’cause you’ve gotten so far in,” he said. “It’s like a hole that closes up behind you and you just get lost in your own mind. You literally get lost.”

REPS members hope area residents will relate to the men featured in the campaign, said Sara Ross, a suicide prevention coordinator through the REPS program. If someone can identify with another person who struggles with depression, it helps break down the stigma that keeps many people from seeking help.

The campaign also emphasizes that men might experience depression differently, Ross said. Men often talk about feeling fatigued and irritable, losing interest in work or things they enjoy, and having disturbed sleep, she said. Many women, however, describe depression as feeling sadness, guilt and worthlessness.

The underlying message of the entire campaign is that mental illness, including depression, is treatable. Just like people go to the doctor if they break a leg, they should go if they are depressed, Ross said.

Contrary to the “cowboy up” culture that tells men the should be able to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get on with life, depression needs to be treated, Mariano said.

“It’s just real life — real men, real depression,” she said about the campaign. “We just hope people stop and take a look at the message and hopefully that will help people seek help.”

In the fall, two groups should be starting: one for survivors of suicide, or people who experienced the suicide of a loved one, and one for people who deal with depression.

For help or information, call the mental health line at 870-1244.

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