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Doctors Should Recommend Group Therapy for Men with Depression

Update Date: Jun 26, 2013 01:58 PM EDT

Researchers have continuously found evidence that mental illness manifests different between men and women. Even though statistics reveal that more women suffer from mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, than men, several researchers have stated that this disparity between the two sexes could be due to social stigmas that are associated with mental disorders. Since mental illness have been stigmatized as a weakness, researchers have reasoned that men could be avoiding treatment for their conditions, believing that they can fix themselves.  A new report found that getting men to seek help, particularly in a group setting, could make a huge difference in how men are treated for depression and anxiety.

"The findings not only highlight the contrast between how women deal with mental health issues compared with men but also reveal a discernible pattern of isolation with many men suffering from depression having limited family and friend-support groups they can talk to, while those who did felt they could not talk openly about their concerns," the authors wrote according to Medical Xpress.

The researchers, headed by Dr. Helen Cramer from the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol, interviewed two groups of men regarding their conditions and group therapy. The first group consisted of 17 men who came from one of four different support groups for depression. The second group was made up of 12 men who were staff members from the support groups. Half of the men in this group suffered from depression.

The research team discovered that the groups appeared to improve the patients' mental condition. Not only did the peers provide support, they helped break down social stigmas about mental illness. The groups also gave men the opportunity to take on leadership roles. On top of this finding, the researchers noted that men from different backgrounds required different types of group therapy. For example, unemployed men who have a more severe mental condition tended to go to professionally led groups where as men with a milder mental issue did well in peer-headed groups.

Despite finding the positive effects of group therapy for men, the researchers acknowledged the fact that a lot of men miss out on group therapy because they are unwilling to seek help. The researchers stated that in order to combat this, general practitioners and health professionals should be more adamant about recommending these therapy groups to their male patients.

"GP's and other health professionals may be able to play a key role in helping to acknowledge their experiences of depression and anxiety through promoting group therapy as a good starting point to engage men and may combine well with one-to-one talking therapies. These peer-led community groups can offer men year round, low cost social and mental health support that may be one of the most effective ways to help their condition," the authors added.

The study, "Do depressed and anxious men do groups? What works and what are the barriers to help seeking?" is available in the journal Primary Health Care Research & Development, published on the June 26 2013.

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