Monday Medical: Campaign targets men and suicide
August 19, 2012
There are certain things a manly man just shouldn't do: slap fight, skip and refer to baseball runs as "points."
Being open and honest about your life and problems? That is one of the least "unmanly" things, said Rich Mahogany, a fictional doctor featured on http://www.mantherapy.org.
The website is the centerpiece of a Colorado educational campaign that uses humor to help men tackle issues such as depression, divorce, financial hardship and thoughts of suicide.
"They are trying to get men to look at this maybe for their friends or co-workers or even themselves," said Ronna Autrey, executive director of Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, which promotes suicide awareness in the Yampa Valley. "Men are so hard to reach. … They are the people we are losing the most because they don't ask for help."
Colorado has the sixth-highest rate of suicide in the U.S., according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Men between the ages of 25 and 54 make up a significant portion of suicide deaths in the state.
The high suicide rate in the Rocky Mountain region has been attributed to factors including geographic and social isolation, harsh climates and access to guns. A 2010 study by the University of Utah School of Medicine linked high altitudes to increased suicide risk in people suffering from depression.
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Hard economic times and high unemployment exacerbate the situation, especially for unemployed men accustomed to providing for their families.
The stigma attached to seeking mental health help can prevent a man from realizing he has a problem. Often, men will self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, leading them on a potentially deadly path.
Although history of depression or mental illness and substance abuse is associated with the majority of suicides, some depression is situational, Autrey said.
Either way, treatment in the form of medication and/or counseling can help men overcome the hopelessness, frustration and shame preventing them from seeing a brighter future.
"Somehow, we have to reach these men and get them to understand this is a disease, and it's OK to get help," Autrey said. "If a little bit of humor helps them do that, great."
The Man Therapy campaign and website, launched by the Office of Suicide Prevention at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, helps men gauge their level of depression and provides resources for men and individuals worried about a loved one or friend.
Signals that a person should seek help include sadness or depression lasting more than two weeks, changes in energy levels, sleep problems, frequent crying, loss of self-esteem, frequent irritability and anger, extreme anxiety and inability to concentrate.
Giving away important items for no particular reason or not attending social events and activities are other big signs that something is wrong with a family member or friend, Autrey said.
Men who aren't sure how to seek help can start by explaining their situation to their family doctor or contacting a mental health clinic, such as Steamboat Mental Health Center (970-879-2141). Sliding-scale mental health services and financial assistance are available.
A support group for individuals coping with depression or bipolar disorder meets from 6:30 to 8 p.m. the first and third Wednesdays of each month at Yampa Valley Medical Center. The group is well-attended by men, Autrey said.
More information about suicide prevention and mental health issues will be available at the Yampa Valley Wellness Conference Sept. 29 at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort. The event is free. To register, call Autrey at 970-846-8182.
For more information about Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, visit http://www.preserving life.org.
Tamera Manzanares is a community outreach specialist for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.