From 2003 through 2005, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) focused on educating the public about depression in men through its Real Men. Real Depression. campaign, becoming the nation’s first formal public effort to raise awareness on the topic.
Researchers estimate more than six million men in the United States have a depressive disorder—comprising about one-third of all adults living with depression in any given year. Men are less likely than women to recognize, acknowledge, and seek treatment for their depression. In addition, their loved ones and even their physicians may not always detect depressive symptoms in men.
NIMH took the approach of having men talk directly to other men, as distinguished documentary filmmaker Leslie Wiener captured them on video, speaking candidly about their experiences with depression. Hours of unscripted conversations from a wide spectrum of men (including a retired U.S. Air Force First Sergeant, a firefighter, a writer, a publisher, a national diving champion, a lawyer, a police officer, a student, and others) were edited to produce public service announcements (PSAs) and other educational materials. The men filmed gave permission to use their full names and professions and were active participants in the campaign.
By sharing their personal stories of depression, treatment, and recovery, these men helped NIMH increase public awareness of depression in men, and made a powerful contribution to help other men recognize depression.
The variety of resources and materials created for the Real Men. Real Depression. campaign, including PSAs, brochures, fact sheets, a web site, and a telephone and email hotlines, helped educate the public about men in depression. In October of 2005, the campaign launched new materials in Spanish to reach out to Latino communities. During the campaign’s three-year run, the NIMH distributed nearly one million copies of these resources to interested people and organizations and over 150,000 copies were downloaded from the website. In addition, the campaign’s outreach effort generated 14 million hits to the web site and nearly 5,000 emails and phone calls to the information hotline.
Resources created and available to the public, the media and health care providers on men and depression include:
- Publications about men and depression (fact sheets and brochures)
- Public Service Announcements (PSAs) for television, radio, and print
- Public Service Announcements (PSAs) in Spanish for television, radio, and print
- Real stories of men with depression, how they got help and got better.