“I did think John was
depressed. It was just
difficult for him to hear
it and it was difficult for
me to say it in a way that
was effective, because
clearly nagging wouldn’t
Men Get Depression Documentary airs on public television
State of the Art, Inc. has produced an HDTV broadcast special on Men Get Depression. It is the centerpiece of a national campaign on male depression to increase awareness of depression, reduce stigma, and prevent suicide. The campaign will culminate with its broadcast on public television beginning in May 2008 (check local listings for date and time).
The documentary is dramatically structured in four acts: 1) Putting a name on it. Men awakening to awareness that something is gravely wrong that they can’t control. 2) Not just me, but also those around me. Exploration of depression’s collateral damage, pain and injury to relationships. 3) I need help and it’s okay to ask for it. Acceptance that help is available and personal accounts of experiences with both medication and psychotherapy. 4) Therapy can work, but requires discipline. How therapy has changed men’s lives and their relationships.
Each act is composed of emotionally compelling scenes in which men, family members and therapists relate personal struggles with depression that in some cases had brought men to the brink of suicide. Former CEO of CNN, Tom Johnson relates how at his lowest point he seriously considered “checking out”. Former NFL quarterback Eric Hipple explains why he no longer owns a gun. Others describe rash and risky behaviors that put themselves and others in danger and how this was related to emotional pain and a sense of worthlessness. An effort was made to sustain throughout the four acts the palpable sense of men at risk that naturally emerged from each of their profiles.
The corrosive effect of depression on the self, relationships and careers is dramatically portrayed through intimate profiles including three recent immigrants from Guatemala and Puerto Rico, a former NFL Quarterback, a Fortune 500 CEO, an unemployed Iraq War veteran, a university professor, a pastor, and others. The profiles show this insidious disease knows no racial, socio-economic or age-related boundaries and is potentially lethal.
“Life seemed to rush by out of control. We were headed for the airport in fact and I just wrote a quick little note to Shelly, handed it to her and I jumped out of the car into oncoming traffic ... it’s really hard to explain to Shelly what it’s like to feel this desperate.”
- Eric Hipple, former NFL Quarterback
The documentary focuses on three stages of men’s lives, representing a unique set of challenges and potential triggers of depression:
- 18-30, the beginning of work life and college years
- 30-55, the middle years of career and family life
- 55+, and later life.
“I’m in the height of my career. Things ought to be great. They ought to be wonderful. And yet, I’m miserable. I went through that beat up period, you know, hated myself. And so you try and fight through it. But then by sometimes by doing that, you just end up getting like deeper and deeper down. Then you almost give up.”
- ERIC, former NFL Quarterback
This program creates a personal view of depression with two facets: first men with the illness and second those most prone to being its “collateral casualties”--wives, children and friends. They are included because depression destroys relationships and because of the critical role others can play in recognizing symptoms, encouraging treatment and providing emotional support, not to mention their need to take care of themselves, children as well as spouses.
And I didn’t see him as a father because he just was totally hopelessness, withdrawn. He was physically a person that was in the room, but there was no conversation there; there was no involvement. To me I really thought he didn’t care or he just didn’t love us or didn’t love us enough.
-Diana, daughter of 65-year-old Moises from Guatemala
“I’d always felt like I was walking on eggshells. Was he going to be Mr. Wonderful? Or was he going to be a bear? You know, I’m out of here. I can’t take it anymore. You’re driving me crazy. In desperation, I was saying, David, we’ve got to do something. This is just out of control.”
- ANNE, David’s Wife
“She actually told me the truth, that I’d been miserable to live with, that she had actually thought about leaving, you know, with the kids.”
- DAVID, University Professor
Also featured are revealing, normally confidential scenes of psychotherapy and interviews with therapists focusing on their patients’ responses to treatment. Compelling patient profiles portray both recovery and continued struggle with depression.
“You know that when you go to a doctor they ask you what your symptoms are and why you are going over there. It was hard for me to tell, I was ashamed, so ashamed”
- Javier, 35 year old from Puerto Rico
“How does one express psychological pain and how does one express emotional pain? That is not an easy thing to do to begin with. We can always very easily answer how we are thinking. It’s not always as easy to talk about how we are feeling. And I think that even becomes more difficult for an Hispanic man.”
-Dr. Francisco Fernandez, MD, Javier’s Psychiatrist
Interspersed among the men’s profiles are comments from such mental health experts as Dr. Francisco Fernandez of University of South Florida, who reflects on his experience providing care to his Latino patients in Tampa, Dr. John Greden, Director of the University of Michigan’s Depression Center, who gives a perspective on recent neuroscience research findings on the relationship of stress and depression, Dr. Michael Addis, Professor of Psychology at Clark College who has studied attitudes towards depression in ethnic minority communities and author John Head, who has written about the relationship of racism and depression from his own personal experience with the disease.
“I see it as sort of a tragedy when you have someone, especially a man, get to the point where they finally say, “okay, I need help. I need to do something about this and they try to do it and there are these obstacles in their way.
- John Head-author
“The reason they don’t want to go to the doctor is they don’t want to find out that something is really wrong. An we’ve heard this is our research as well, ‘the reason I don’t want to talk to a mental health professional is, what if I found out I’m really wacko.’”
-Dr. Michael Addis, PhD, Clark University
Also, explored is the relationship between depression and substance abuse as a form of self-medication to alleviate emotional stress and pain.
“I think alcohol and depression go together”.
-Moises, 67 year-old, construction worker, Guatemalan immigrant
It got to the point where I would look for different substances that would take me away from the depression.
- Stephen, 20 year-old college student
The relationship between depression and suicide is explored through both personal accounts of suicide attempts and suicidal ideation and experts’ commentary.
“My son was not under treatment for depression and he had not been diagnosed with depression. But ironically he did leave a suicide note. And in his note he talked about not being happy. And we were not aware that he was that unhappy. I guess any death is painful but to see this kind of death is just something I see over and over again in my mind. Because my daughter and my wife and I found my son and he had shot himself. And that’s a scene that just won’t go away.”
- Man in suicide family support group