A registered nurse and nursing instructor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge, Peter Kellett, who is currently pursuing his PhD, is exploring a topic that has intrigued him since his days as a master’s student: the impact perceived masculinities have on the rates of depression in men.
Kellett believes that many men who suffer from depression are misdiagnosed, and even more concerning, may never seek care in the first place. It’s more than just a hunch – there is plenty of research that supports Kellett’s theory, and he plans to supplement those findings with research of his own.
“Studies suggest that the annual prevalence of depression in men is only three to four per cent, and that women get depression at twice the rate that men do,” explains Kellett. “But there’s an enigma in the numbers, because men commit suicide at a rate that is at least double that of women. So the question is, if only a small portion of men get depressed, why do so many men kill themselves?”
Kellett’s PhD study will look into Canadian Community Health Survey data, specifically the 2012 mental health survey. His plan is to examine the intersection between masculinities and various social hierarchies such as income level, employment status and social gradients associated with visible minority status. Kellett hopes to contribute to a growing body of evidence that suggests that when men feel subordinated, their physical and mental health can become compromised.
“The challenge is that our perception of depression doesn’t always capture men’s presentation of it,” says Kellett. “Men’s depression is profoundly influenced by societal norms. Men aren’t supposed to show weakness. They don’t want to appear vulnerable, so often their depression will present through violence, hostility, irritability, aggressiveness and compulsive behaviours related to addiction and risk taking. Under current mental health measures these men are more likely to be diagnosed with an addictive disorder or anti-social personality disorder than depression.”
Through his research, Kellett hopes to identify patterns of depression in different groups of men and present findings that may help to shape social policy. Perhaps most importantly, Kellett hopes his research will initiate social dialogue on an issue that is not so much swept under the carpet as completely overlooked.
“The issue of men’s depression is relatively hidden, but in another way it’s completely in our face,” says Kellett. “Men don’t want to talk about being depressed, but we see and feel the results of it. When left undiagnosed and untreated, men’s depression has a huge impact on the overall health of society. We need to be able to identify men’s depression and understand all the social contexts that are tied to it.”
This story appears in the Spring 2014 edition of SAM magazine. For a look at the full issue in a flipbook format, follow this link.