In each new edition of the Psychology of Men and Masculinity, we interview authors from a selected publication to highlight some of the exciting research published in the journal. This quarter’s featured article is by Dr. Jason Spendelow titled, Men’s self-reported coping strategies for depression: A systematic review of qualitative studies.
JS: There is a growing body of qualitative research on several men’s mental health topics, including depression. To increase the usefulness of this work, it is important to systematically review and synthesise in order to help us see key themes across studies. This can also help clarify topics that need to be pursued in the future. With men’s coping specifically, there is a stereotypical view that men are not particularly skilled when it comes to managing emotional problems. I was interested in determining what self-initiated coping trends exist among depressed men, regardless of whether they might be considered ‘good’ or ‘bad’. If we have a clearer identification of these strategies, there might be broader scope to harness what men already do well, and where they can improve.
What are some of the main points you would want a general audience to take away from this review?
JS: Men use a variety of coping strategies to manage depression. Two of the most important involve how they represent themselves in terms of a traditional Western view of masculinity. One potentially important group of strategies involve challenging the traditional view of what it means to be a ‘real man’. Being flexible in what behaviours are acceptable can broaden coping strategies and potentially improve overall coping.
How might the average person use your findings in their everyday lives?
JS: Men might use these findings to see that men do have various coping options, and some cope by actively challenge traditional masculine norms. This can provide more choice and flexibility in how men respond to low mood. A man can display traditional masculine traits such as strength and resilience in a variety of ways that have a positive influence on health. For example, strength can be interpreted as standing up to traditional masculinity (and those who promote it) and seeking help for depression regardless. Alternatively, independence does not have to always mean ‘going-it-alone’. It can mean gaining coping skills through professional support to improve an ability to cope independently in the future.