Men's discourses of help-seeking in the context of depression

Joy L Johnson, John L Oliffe, Mary T Kelly, Paul Galdas, John S Ogrodniczuk

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Depression is an illness increasingly constructed as a gendered mood disorder and consequently diagnosed in women more than men. The diagnostic criteria used for its assessment often perpetrate and reproduce gender stereotypes. The stigma associated with mental illness and the gendered elements of depression suggest there are likely numerous discourses that position, explain, and justify help-seeking practices. This qualitative study explored men's discourses of seeking help for depression. The methodological approach was informed by a social constructionist perspective of language, discourse and gender that drew on methods from discourse analysis. We conducted individual in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 38 men with depression, either formally diagnosed or self reported. The analysis revealed five discursive frames that influenced the men's talk about help-seeking and depression: manly self-reliance; treatment-seeking as responsible independent action; guarded vulnerability; desperation; and genuine connection. The findings are discussed within a broader context of social discourses of gender, the limitations of current help-seeking literature and the evidence for how men seek help in ways that extend traditional notions of medical treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-361
Number of pages17
JournalSociology of Health and Illness: A Journal of Medical Sociology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012

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