Two guys having a conversation.
It's normal and OK to feel overwhelmed once in a while.Image by: Movember
Two guys having a conversation.
27 March 2022

How to help a guy with depression

4 minutes read time

Feeling overwhelmed once in a while is completely normal. There is nothing unnatural about experiencing feelings of sadness, anger or dread because it’s literally part of being human – whether it's short-term after a crap day at work, or something heavier after a relationship breakup or grief and loss.

What we need to watch out for is when these feelings linger, for days on end, and we suddenly aren’t able to see our way out the other side.

So what is depression?

Depression is when you feel consistently down for a fortnight or more, and with such intensity, that it starts to affect your quality of life (whether it's work, your diet and sleep, or your relationships). Clinical depression, compared to your everyday ‘regular’ sadness, is a lot harder to just overcome with the flick of a switch as it starts to interfere with your sense of self-worth and motivation.

What are common depression symptoms?

There are several emotional and even physical symptoms of depression. Here are some of the most common.

  • You often feel down or sad for prolonged periods.
  • You're angry or irritable at seemingly small things.
  • You feel drained, generally fatigued, unmotivated or don’t have the energy for daily tasks. Some people with depression find they stop shaving, washing, or can’t get out of bed.
  • Hobbies or things you typically like just don’t do it for you anymore
  • You're having trouble sleeping.
  • You've lost your appetite, or you're suddenly eating too much.
  • You're bingeing on TV, video games, porn, gambling, social media or other escapes.
  • You're going hard on stimulants like alcohol, tobacco, caffeine or drugs.
  • You've got intrusive thoughts that interfere with your ability to get through the day. Some people living with depression report 'feeling worthless'.
  • You find you're unexpectedly reduced to tears or feeling depressed for no reason.
  • You contemplate suicide or have engaged in self-harm (you should contact your local support service immediately if there is a risk of harm to yourself or someone else).

What causes depression?

Depression has been around since the time of ancient Greece or earlier, but we still have plenty to learn about where and how it arises and why it sticks around.

The thing we’re clear on is that there is no single cause of depression (e.g. you’re not missing the happy gene), and that the trigger can often be different for each individual. What we are starting to get a grip on is how to manage these feelings, regardless of what may have caused them, by focusing on how we interpret and respond to certain information or situations.

In general, a build-up of things that cause stress (like prolonged isolation or unemployment; chronic illness; abuse or bullying at work, school, in family or in a relationship, etc.) are thought to be more closely linked to depression than recent difficulties. Importantly, for those of us with a history of recurrent depression, experiencing something intensely stressful or unexpected (like job loss or a relationship break-up) is also thought to be able to 'trigger' another depressive episode.

Am I depressed? How do I get help for depression?

Talk to your doctor if you've been feeling low for a while, or if it's in any way affecting daily life. Taking the first step is often the most challenging part for dealing with depression. It's also the most important.

Remember, it often takes coming to terms with the fact that things can be different, and that you don’t need to struggle alone or in silence, to take that step to break the depression cycle and reach out for support.

A doctor can advise what to do next. They may provide a referral and will often point you to therapy and counselling. In some cases, a mental health professional will prescribe medication. If you're not sure where to start, consider contacting a local support service.

How to help a guy with depression

Reaching out to a guy who is feeling depressed or low is one of the best things you can do. We stress this all the time at Movember: if you sense something's not right, let him know you've got his back.

Of course, we know it's not quite as simple as just asking outright. That's why Movember has some great resources for having tough conversations about mental health.

We recommend a system we developed with our friends at R U OK? It's called ALEC and it stands for Ask + Listen + Encourage + Check in.

We use a tool based on ALEC called Movember Conversations. If you're worried about someone, you'll find loads of tips for confidently having important (and sometimes difficult) conversations.

Of course, while talking it out is important, actually doing stuff is even better. That's because – at the risk of stating the obvious – fun or meaningful social things can really help someone with depression. Again, while the science isn't entirely clear, we do know that feeling 'connected' helps a great deal.

So make a time to catch up. Hit the gym together or set up a night of gaming. Go fishing, watch a movie, go for a ride or just hang out…

It's a lot cheaper than therapy and, best of all, everyone gets to have fun.