Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Wednesday, September 30, 1998 Published at 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK


Men behaving sadly

Relationship breakdowns are the most common cause of male depression

Men are three times more likely to commit suicide as women, but often fail to seek the help they need when they are depressed, according to psychiatrists.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists says men are probably just as likely to get depressed as women, but frequently feel it is "unmanly and weak" to ask for professional help.

However, they do tend to seek help when their depression becomes suicidal.

Psychiatrists say the condition is easily treated, but has to be caught as early as possible.

Launching a new leaflet on depression, Dr Philip Timms, a consultant psychiatrist at Guys Hospital in London, said: "It's a male cultural thing.

"Men are more likely to want to be independent and less dependent on family and friends."

Relationship problems are the top reason men become depressed, followed by unemployment.


No-one knows why men are more likely to commit suicide than women. The 16 to 24 and 39 to 54 age groups are more at risk.

Two thirds of men who commit suicide have seen their GP in the previous month with half seeking help in the week before they kill themselves.

The leaflet shows how bottling emotions up can cause a downward spiral.

[ image: Men are just as likely to suffer depression as women]
Men are just as likely to suffer depression as women
It says many men turn to drink and drugs to blot out negative emotions, but this can lead to violence and relationship problems.

Research also shows men who commit violent crimes are more likely to be depressed.

And the leaflet says men's fear of talking about their problems can mean they avoid conflict and difficult discussions, resulting in communication breakdowns and relationship problems.

It suggests that one reason why men suffer more than women when their relationships break down is that they are used to being leaders in their family lives.

However, most divorces and separations are started by women.

Also, when a relationship breaks down, men may lose touch with their children as well as their partner and may have to find a new home.

The leaflet, Men Behaving Sadly, explains the difference between feeling down and depression.

The symptoms include miserable feelings that won't go away, feeling unable to enjoy anything, being unable to concentrate on anything, losing interest in sex and losing weight.


Men who are divorced, separated or widowed, unemployed or shy are more likely to get depressed, with divorced men the most likely to commit suicide.

Research also shows that one in 10 new fathers becomes depressed, particularly if their partner is suffering post-natal depression.

They often feel rejected by their partner, who may refuse sex because they are too tired and tend to be more absorbed by the baby.

The leaflet also advises on ways of avoiding depression. These include talking about negative feelings, keeping active, eating properly and steering clear of drugs and alcohol.

Dr Timms says he believes there is room for a shift in male attitudes to depression.

Citing the change in public attitudes to homosexuality, he said he believed the leaflet was "pushing on an open door".

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

18 Sep 98 | Health
Learning your way out of depression

01 Sep 98 | Health
Help on tap for manic depressives

23 Jul 98 | Health
Shy? Try taking a pill

05 Jun 98 | Latest News
Depressed men at greater risk of heart disease

Internet Links

Royal College of Psychiatrists publications


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99