The underestimation of depression among men may result from atypical depression symptoms and male help-seeking behaviour. However, higher suicide rates among men than among women indicate a need for gender-specific services for men with depression. In order to develop gender-specific services, it is essential to examine professionals’ attitudes towards men’s depressive symptoms and treatment needs as well as barriers to and facilitators of treatment. This study examined gender-specific treatment needs in male patients and treatment approaches to male patients from a professional perspective.
Semi-structured face-to-face interviews were conducted with 33 mental health professionals (MHPs) from five German psychiatric institutions. The study assessed the characteristics and attributes of male patients with depression risk factors for the development of depression among men, their condition at the beginning of treatment, male patients’ depressive symptoms, the needs and expectations of male patients, the importance of social networks in a mental health context, and MHPs’ treatment aims and treatment methods. Transcripts were analysed using qualitative content analysis.
The professionals’ reference group of male patients were men who were characterised in accordance with traditional masculinity. Attributes reported as in line with this type of men were late initiations of inpatient treatment after crisis, suicidal ideation or attempted suicide, and high expectations towards treatment duration, success rate in recovery and therapeutic sessions. In contrast, male patients who deviate from these patterns were partially described with reference to female stereotypes. Professionals referred to psychosocial models in their explanations of the causes of depression and provided sociological explanations for the development of masculine ideals among men. The consequences of these for treatment were discussed against the background of normative expectations regarding the male gender. From the professionals’ point of view, psychoeducation and the acceptance of depression (as a widespread mental illness) were the most important goals in mental health treatment.
In order to improve mental health among men, gender-specific services should be offered. Awareness of the role of gender and its implications on mental health treatment should be an integral part of MHPs’ education and their daily implementation of mental health treatment practices.