Discussing Depression, Anxiety, Chronic Disease And Suicide Prevention In Men

Anxiety. Chronic disease. Depression. Suicide. While these may not be fun topics for people to discuss, they are all vitally important to an individual’s health.

On November 28, 2018, the University of Maryland Medical System and the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) are bringing together health experts, individuals with “lived experiences” and community members for the “Not All Wounds Are Visible – Community Conversations: Let’s Talk About Depression and Anxiety” event to discuss these issues.

Clinicians and other subject matter experts will be facilitating conversations about the impact of depression and anxiety on men, seniors and those managing chronic disease. The important topic of suicide prevention will be also be discussed.

This free event provides an opportunity to hear from and talk to health care professionals and community leaders, including Washington D.C. attorney and author Joshua Rogers and Bowie City Councilman Michael Esteve, about depression and anxiety and the road to recovery.

Retired Baltimore Ravens running back and Super Bowl XXXV champion Jamal Lewis is the event’s keynote speaker. He will share lessons learned along his journey from the bright light of stardom to the shadows of depression and thoughts of suicide, and as he redefined himself after the “cheerleaders” in his life disappeared.

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and it’s common for someone with depression to also suffer from anxiety. While the causes of anxiety and depression are as different as people are, for men, social norms around masculinity can make these topics difficult to talk about.

A 2018 study in the journal, JAMA Psychiatry revealed that 30 percent of men have suffered from a period of depression in their lifetime. Nine percent of men in the United States have daily feelings of depression or anxiety according to data from the National Health Interview Survey, yet only one in four spoke to a mental health professional.

Older adults are at risk of misdiagnosis and lack of treatment because some of their symptoms can mimic normal age-related issues or be mistakenly attributed to other illnesses, medications, or life changes. Elderly patients might also be reluctant to talk about their feelings or fail to understand that physical symptoms can be a sign of depression. For elderly people living independently, isolation can make it difficult to reach out for help. According to the Mayo Clinic, men with depression often go undiagnosed. Symptoms may include feelings of sadness or hopelessness, difficulty sleeping, tiredness, irritability or inappropriate anger.

Downplaying signs and symptoms and a reluctance to discuss and seek treatment may contribute to the failure to recognize depression related symptoms.

Anxiety and depression do not decline with age. Excessive anxiety that causes distress or that interferes with daily activities is not a normal part of aging, and can lead to a variety of health problems and decreased functioning in everyday life. Contributing factors include increased stressful situations such as the loss of friends and family members and decreased mobility, which lead to greater isolation.

Additionally, older adults are often hesitant to report symptoms of depression or anxiety because they grew up at a time when mental illness was stigmatized. Anxiety affects as much as 10 to 20 percent of the older population, although it often remains undiagnosed, according to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation. A recent study from the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that more than 27 percent of older adults under the care of an aging service provider have symptoms of anxiety that may not amount to a diagnosed disorder, but significantly affect their functioning.

Managing chronic disease or pain at any age often causes a significant increase in symptoms of depression or anxiety. People with depression are three times more likely to develop chronic pain or pain that lasts beyond the typical time it takes for an illness or injury to heal. It is important for anyone with a chronic condition to discuss persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood feelings with their health care provider so that their physical and mental health can be managed together.

The United States saw a 25 percent increase in suicides across all ages and genders between 1999 and 2016. Suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the country. The highest suicide rate is among adults between 45 and 54 years of age, and the second highest rate is among those 85 years or older. Nearly 121 people commit suicide in the U.S. every day, with men being four times more likely than women to commit suicide, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The World Health Organization reports that 75 percent of people with mental disorders remain untreated, with almost 1 million people turning to suicide each year.

According to research by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 90 percent of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable and potentially treatable illness including depression, anxiety, and alcohol or other substance use. Specific behaviors including increased use of alcohol or drugs, acting recklessly, sleeping too much or too little and conversations about feeling trapped or being a burden to others may be warning signs of suicide.

The November 28 event is designed for community members to hear from and ask questions of physicians and other health care professionals about mental health in men, seniors and those managing chronic illnesses. Visit: www.umms.org/communityhealth for a complete list of program speakers and to register for this important conversation.