Tackling the Tough Stuff: Fighting Depression

Do you remember the childhood game “Guess Who?” See if you can guess our person, chosen in honor of NFL season returning!

  • A pigskin legend.
  • A Hall of Fame quarterback.
  • A beloved face of the NFL, even if he did play for the Steeler’s (gasp!).


Any ideas?


Yes, Terry Bradshaw!


Even if you know Terry’s most famous achievements, there something you might not know about Terry. He’s coping with depression years after his thirteen year stint with Pittsburgh.


It takes a lot of bravery to make such a public statement, and it’s time more people are talking about depression. After all, you don’t need to be an NFL legend to be depressed. Just ask the 10% of adults in the US who are depressed.


Let’s examine the facts. Five to seven percent of men between the ages of 18 and 60 report that they are depressed. The key word here is report. It has long been known that depression is underreported, especially in men. Likely, many more men are depressed but unwilling to report it.




  • The way that men experience depression is different from women. In addition to the typical symptoms of depression, male depression often includes participating in risky behaviors, alcohol and substance abuse, irritability or inappropriate anger, immersing himself in one activity, and being controlling, violent, or abusive. Considering the stereotype of depression as similar to sadness or exhaustion, it may not be easy to recognize these behaviors as signs of depression.
  • Symptoms are downplayed. Often men don’t recognize that they are depressed, or just don’t want to admit it. It may seem easier to ignore depression or to keep it hidden, but depression doesn’t just go away.
  • There is a reluctance to discuss or seek treatment for depression. Talking about feelings and seeking help can be difficult amidst the cultural messaging of “be strong and be in control” that men so often receive. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but men often avoid it because of that perception.


Fighting depression may seem like a monumental task, but there are lots of ways to tackle it! These are some practical plays from the mental health playbook!


Play #1: Identify the Strongest Players

By players, we mean symptoms. There are common symptoms of depression, but everyone experiences depression differently. So how do you identify symptoms of depression? Focus on behaviors that are different from the norm, especially any physical or emotional changes like shifts in mood or behavior, fatigue, trouble sleeping and general pain and talk to your doctor about what that might mean. Julie Scelfo writes, “Depressed men are more likely to get into bar fights, scream at their wives, have affairs or become enraged by small inconveniences like lousy service at a restaurant.”


Play #2: Take Advantage of Coaching Staff

If Peyton needs them, you need them! Identify the people in your life that care about you and can support you. These can be friends, family, partner, support groups, or your health care provider. A strong support system, whether one person or a team, is a vital ally in your fight against depression. Luckily, your coaching staff isn’t concerned with your passing yards, they’re focused on YOU!


Play #3: Do not Self-Medicate!

It is only natural to want to fix something that is wrong, but when it comes to depression, men of all ages report using alcohol and drugs to numb the pain (Brownhill et al; 2005). Not only are these substances often depressants – making the depression worse! – but they are dangerous and often lead to other serious issues. This is where a ‘coaching staff is essential’: speak with your doctor and set a prescribed treatment plan for fighting your depression!


Play #4: Play time!

There are therapeutic benefits of finding your happy place. So pick up a round of golf, go for a walk with family, hang out with a friend, or get in a good workout to lift your mood. Focus on favorite pastimes and enjoy!


Play #5: Talk to a Pro

Teams that win the Super Bowl require great coaches that specialize. A defensive coordinator wouldn’t be able to coach the field goal kicker very well. Just like needing a specialist for different plays, men struggling with depression might require a professional that specializes in depression. There are lots of ways a professional can help you deal with depression and they don’t require a lifetime commitment or couch time. Here are some tips for finding someone to talk to: http://www.webmd.com/depression/finding-doctor-therapist.


There you have it. Some straight, real facts about depression and how to tackle it. Take care of yourself so that you can continue to take care of everything else. While you’re at it, check out these resources:


Mental Health America: learn about mental health and finding treatment.


Take this quick screening to determine if your symptoms could be signs of depression. Keep the results and share them with your doctor!


The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides FREE and CONFIDENTIAL support to people in crisis or emotional distress. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


The National Institute of Mental Health provides lots of great information about depression and other mental health topics.


The American Psychiatric Association strives to educate the public about mental health and connects people with the help they need.


  • References

o   http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2013/11/07/terry-bradshaw-memory-loss-fox-steelers/3469895/

o   http://www.cdc.gov/Features/dsDepression/

o   http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/male-depression/art-20046216?pg=2

o   http://www.newsweek.com/men-and-depression-new-treatments-105091

o   Brownhill S, Wilhelm K, Barclay L, Schmied V. ‘Big build: Hidden depression in men.’ Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 2005;39:921-31.

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