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Psychiatrist Identifies the "Gauntlet of Silence" Among Men

In his book Invisible Men, Dr. Michael E. Addis tells the story about meeting a middle-aged man named Patrick. Although by all accounts Patrick was an easygoing, happily-married family man who ran a successful business, he had just tried to take his own life. After some prodding from Dr. Addis, Patrick finally divulged the events that led to his suicide attempt. His business had steadily slowed until he was unable to make the mortgage payment on their new house. Things went downhill financially from there. Then the economy crashed.

Dr. Addis writes:

[But] it was Patrick's response to these events that really struck me. Rather than letting his wife and close friends know about the struggles he was facing, Patrick kept it all to himself. Over time, the gap between what people thought was going on in his life and what was actually going on grew larger, and Patrick became profoundly depressed. He couldn't face working, but he also couldn't face telling people how bad things had gotten …. Eventually the depression became so overwhelming that he saw no other way out.
"How could I face them?" he asked. "What would they think of me? In their eyes I'd look like a has-been, somebody whose time had come and gone, only because he couldn't handle it."
"But those were extremely difficult experiences you had," I said. "Nobody could have foreseen the financial difficulties."
"I should have been able to. Besides, that's not what I'm talking about. I should have been able to handle it emotionally. Instead, I fell apart and turned into a sniveling little boy. What was I going to say, 'Oh, Mommy, please help me?' I couldn't let people see me like that."
On the one hand, it seemed obvious to me that no man would want to see himself like a little boy asking for Mommy's help. But then if you stopped and thought about it, is asking for help worse than dying? How far will a man go to hide his shame? How many Patricks are there who would rather [suffer alone] than try to break through the gauntlet of silence and invisibility that prevents them from finding the support they so desperately need?

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