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Older men more prone to depression, suicide: expert

Troy Shantz As men age they are disproportionately prone to depression and thoughts of suicide, a local mental health expert says.
Social worker Sabrina Ferrari discusses the symptoms and warning signs of depression at a Golden K Kiwanis meeting on Jan. 14 Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz

As men age they are disproportionately prone to depression and thoughts of suicide, a local mental health expert says.

“Men are encouraged to be strong, not admit that they’re struggling, or do not want to seem weak,” said Sabrina Ferrari, a front line worker with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

“Men are less likely to seek help, and based on consultations… antidepressants were prescribed 8% less for men.”

Depression is the most common mental health problem for older adults but is not a normal part of ageing, the social worker with CMHA’s geriatric outreach team told the Golden K Kiwanis Club on Jan. 15.

Earlier estimates suggested as many as 56% of long-term care residents are depressed. But new studies say it could be as high as 90%, she told the largely male and older audience at the Lochiel Kiwanis Community Centre.

Ferrari said depressed people often withdraw from friends and lose interest in hobbies and pastimes. Depression is more than a bad day or feeling blue, with symptoms persisting two weeks or more.

Other symptoms include sleep disruptions, trouble concentrating, appetite changes and decreasing energy, Ferrari said.

“Everything feels like a chore.”

Depression is caused by a number of factors, she explained, and doctors often start with a blood test.

Diabetes, thyroid problems and infections can cause depression, as can a diagnosis of terminal illness or grief from loss, she added

And when depression is left unchecked it can lead to suicide, she warned.

In 2018, 2,880 Canadian men took their own lives, according to Statistics Canada, making it the 8th most common killer.

Ferrari said men are 87% less likely to seek mental health support. While women attempt suicide more, men are more successful.

When someone talks about suicide, even in passing, you should take note and not brush it off. A friend will lend an ear and validate that person’s feelings, she added.

“Almost anything can be the ‘why’ in terms of the reason for thinking about it. But the common theme is the unbearable, intolerable emotional pain,” said Ferrari.

“We hope that you can start to see the signs early enough that (suicide) is not necessarily the end result.”

Antidepressants work. They are not, as often believed, addictive, and the side effects are often mild and disappear over time, she said.

Some prescription drugs take as long as 12 weeks to begin to work so patience is needed, she said.

“It is a journey.”

If you are in crisis, or know someone who is, call CMHA’s 24-hour mental health first response team at 519-336-3445.

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