The Backlash! - Backlash Article Archive - Are Men Undiagnosed to Death?
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Are Men Undiagnosed to Death?
By Rod Van Mechelen
Men are diagnosed with depression far less often than women, but commit suicide far more often. Naturally, feminists protest that this is further proof that women are oppressed.
A corporate conspiracy against women?
2003 Olympia, Wash. - Women are diagnosed with depression far more often than men. In the Fall 2003 issue of Ms. Magazine, this is not only proof of women's oppression, but of a corporate conspiracy targeting women:
While women are diagnosed with depression and other mental illnesses two to three times as often as men, scholars have documented companies' attempts to expand those imbalances in order to increase the markets for new drugs. - Dr. Jonathan M. Metzl, Selling Sanity Through Gender, Ms. Magazine Fall 2003
They're almost certainly right about the conspiracy, or, to be more accurate, marketing strategy. The medical and mental health industry delivers more services to women, so it simply makes sense for their marketing strategies to cater to women, as their primary customers. But is this really so bad for women, or could we make a stronger case that men are the ones harmed by this?

Men harmed more than women
For example, according to Table No. 108 of the 2002 Statistical Abstract of the United States -- PDF, in 1999 the suicide rate for white men was almost 4-1/2 times higher than for white women, and the suicide rate for black men was 6-1/2 times higher than for black women.

If men were diagnosed and treated for depression more, would the male suicide rate fall? Probably. So where's the glitch in the system?

The reason most often given for why depression in men, along with other ills and injuries, goes undiagnosed and untreated is that men are less likely than women to seek help. But as I've written before, the first time I sought help for depression the clinic, whose clientele were predominantly women, turned me away with the statement that they couldn't help me. "You have a lot to be depressed about," the psychologist told me, and he suggested I should just be happy to have gotten this far.

I'm not the only man to be treated this way. I know of others who were turned away, who were told they just needed to deal with their problems. We're men, after all, that's what we do, deal with it. With booze, drugs, over-eating, other self-destructive behaviors and, far more often than women, with suicide.

Ms. magazine can complain all they want that women are targeted by the mental health industry, but the real losers in this are men.


Rod Van Mechelen

Rod Van Mechelen is the author of What Everyone Should Know about Feminist Issues: The Male-Positive Perspective (the page now includes several articles by other authors), and the publisher of The Backlash! @ He is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and served for 9-1/2 years on the Cowlitz Indian Tribal Council.


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