Men Are Often Forgotten In The Discussion of Mental Health & Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder also known as SAD is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons — SAD typically begins in the Autumn months and carries on through Winter. For most, it ends and starts around the same time every year. Each year, about 5 percent of the U.S. population experiences seasonal depression. There is no real known cause of SAD, but over the years those of us who have struggled have found a multitude of holistic methods to combat this chronic illness.

As mental health awareness around this time generally heightens, I've discovered that at times, these methods can seem as if they're geared predominantly toward women, often leaving men out of the equation. Realistically speaking, four out of five people who have seasonal depression are women but, it doesn’t mean that men aren’t struggling as well. Our self-care is one of the most critical investments in our lives. Being a woman, of course, I can't speak from direct experience when it comes to the emotions a man endures when he’s going through a period of depression. However, I can be a sound voice for empowerment and encouragement.

I watched my father fall in and out of depression for years. My brother still very much struggles with depression but refuses any type of assistance with overcoming it because he insists nothing’s wrong. My uncles, my best friends, partner, my cousins, my grandfathers, are all some of the strongest men I know yet, I’ve watched them all struggle at some point in their lives. Because of this, I’ve developed a deep level of compassion not just for men but black men struggling with depression. Through my empathic, telepathic nature it is often easy for me to detect when someone needs a pick me up. It’s a bit of a fight for me when the care and attention are not often received.

Men are often required to hold the title of being the backbone or provider, meaning that vulnerability is often seen as a sign of weakness. My goal has always been to create a space where men, especially our black men feel encouraged to take better care of themselves on a mental, emotional and spiritual level. Whether that space is through my online work, social channels, in my home or my friends calling me to vent, I try to be an open vessel in all areas of my life to be of support for those in need. Confronting the topic of depression is not always easy. It’s JUST NOW become common for the black community to vocalize their struggles with mental health and seeking the support, resources need to combat our illnesses.

Men often need a reminder that, unmanaged stress, lack of attention to personal needs, the suppression of unhealed trauma and bottled emotions can lead to so much darkness. I began to ask, at what point do we encourage our men to acknowledge that always trying to appear strong isn't healthy and is a form of self-neglect?

Studies show that men are more inclined to disregard their health and are less likely to see a doctor or medical professional when in need. A 2012 study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that black men are at higher risk for depression when they mask their emotions. Men make up over 75 percent of suicide victims in the United States, with one man killing himself every 20 minutes.

Evidence suggests that men are significantly less likely to use mental health services in response to a mental health issue in comparison with women. This is especially so for Black men who have historically been known to be criticized for utilizing the resources of mental health professionals.

How do we help? As a collective, I think it's important to realize that the state of one black man's health is an issue of our own, just as much as it is an issue of his. No, I am not saying to babysit men. However, I am saying that there are ways for us to be resourceful when we recognize men in our lives who are struggling with properly caring for themselves. Encouraging each other collectively to heal and monitor our mental health is essential.

You can support by, assisting him in finding a mental health professional when he needs one and ensure that he makes regularly scheduled appointments. Communicate, be supportive and understanding of his tough time by being patient and encouraging. It's important to have those tough conversations and be attentive. Be responsive when there are mentions of suicide or other abnormal behaviors. What are some reactions to look out for?

• Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day

• Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed

• Having low energy

• Having problems with sleeping

• Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight

• Feeling sluggish or agitated

• Having difficulty concentrating

• Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty

• Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

• Oversleeping

• Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates

• Weight gain

• Tiredness or low energy

Men do not isolate yourselves when you're feeling overburdened by life. Don’t feel like you're a burden when you need someone to confide in. Confidently build communities or social circles where you can openly discuss any trauma and pain, past or present. Don't be too prideful to seek help through others, you matter! Let go of the idea that you have to put your self-care on the back burner to deal with life, honor you first. Find safe and healthy ways to discharge your negative energy or pent-up emotions. Meditate, exercise, go for a jog or run, any physical movement that can help bring you back to center, seek it. Your self-care is important, do not be afraid to invest in yourself.

Lately, there has been a widespread discussion about the collective experiencing a deep level of healing and shedding. Some of you may feel like parts of you, and your old life is dying or need to be set free, this is common when you’re going through a transformative phase in your life. We are all undergoing a deep healing and old feelings are resurfacing to be addressed and clear from our lives. Anything you’ve been forcefully holding on to that has hindered your growth, forward progression or has in some form been toxic to you; it’s becoming harder to hold on to it.

How you’ve been dealing and sustaining throughout life will no longer suffice. Your body will start having reverse effects to anything toxic you use to cope. Toxic environments and people will feel too heavy to be around. This is natural, do not feel forced to stick to what you have known. You are now being pushed to expand beyond what you thought was working for you but was really working against you. Let it all fall away. Step into the new. Be kind to yourself during these times. As we celebrate a New Moon Cycle, put some intentions out into The Universe as the unhealthy chapters come to a close and we come into alignment with healthier new beginnings.

WellnessAmber Janae