How Men Approach Depression Differently

According+to+Director+of+Counseling+and+Psychological+Services+%28CPS%29+Jeffrey+Ng%2C+male+participation+in+CPS+has+increased+4%25+since+the+2017-2018+school+year.

JAKE CHADWELL

According to Director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) Jeffrey Ng, male participation in CPS has increased 4% since the 2017-2018 school year.

By LUKE OSBORN, Sports & Health Editor Emeritus

In the 2018-19 school year, Fordham students who identified as men sought help through Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) at a much lower rate than women. Men make up 61% of Fordham’s graduate and undergraduate enrollment, but only 32% of the students CPS treated were men. 

“Male identified students are our most underserved student population,” Jeffrey Ng, Director of CPS, said. 

Psychological research has indicated that the way society conditions men can explain the gap in help-seeking rates. 

According to Ng, men are generally “socialized to be tough, independent and stoic,” rather than to acknowledge their vulnerability, and adhering to these norms may serve as an obstacle in reaching out to mental health services. 

“It’s not uncommon for men to experience being in therapy or counseling as emasculating and discrepant from their idealized and stereotyped version of what masculinity is. There are obviously a lot of nuances and variability, but some men can perceive seeking help for mental health concerns as a weakness,” said Ng. 

Men’s perception of masculinity can also alter how they manifest and experience depression.

“The research has demonstrated that men are more likely to channel and funnel emotional vulnerability into anger and into other externalizing behaviors,” Ng said. “It’s hard for them to cognitively connect their emotional experience to language.” 

This can make professional help seem like less of a viable option, whereas the externalizing behaviors that depressed men develop, such as alcohol abuse or hyperfocusing on work, might fall more in line with a rigid, masculine social role. 

The way American society represents men in the media pressures men in the real world to behave along certain lines. 

Ng said, “We’re seeing more diverse representations of what it means to be male, but there’s still a lot of it out there that’s very traditional, rigid and reductionist.”  

Changing representations of masculinity in the media is not the only step towards eliminating the disparity between men and women seeking professional help. Initiating dialogue about what it means to be masculine in the Fordham community might spur more participation in mental health counseling among men.  

Ng said that effective change will not only require participation from CPS but also “all facets of the institution.” 

Although the help-seeking discrepancy is still large, the male gender role is becoming less rigid as American society progresses. A 2015 study of college-aged men found that identifying with strict masculine norms and increased anger only moderately coincided with feelings of depression. The researchers suggested that younger generations may be less inclined to adhere to traditionally masculine coping mechanisms, which may explain why these norms weren’t strongly indicative of symptoms of depression.

Breaking tradition might be a trend at Fordham as well. According to Ng male participation in CPS has increased 4% since the 2017-2018 school year. 

The motivations that drive individuals to seek psychological help are different for everyone, and making conclusions about why some groups might seek help more than others is difficult. Nevertheless, the limiting gender norms that may prevent men from using mental healthcare services are gradually losing their validity, and in turn, the rate of men seeking help from CPS may continue to increase.