Objective: To investigate men's experience of depression.
Method: A sample of male and female teachers and students was recruited from four sites of a tertiary education institution to a series of focus groups. A grounded theory approach to qualitative data analysis was used to elucidate men's experience of depression. Content analysis was applied to the women's data to examine similarities and contrasts with the men. Standard measures of mood and dispositional optimism confirmed the non-clinical status of the group.
Results: The findings suggest that some men who are depressed can experience a trajectory of emotional distress manifest in avoidant, numbing and escape behaviours which can lead to aggression, violence and suicide. Gender differences appear not in the experience of depression per se, but in the expression of depression.
Conclusion: Emotional distress, constrained by traditional notions of masculinity, may explain why depression in men can often be hidden, overlooked, not discussed or 'acted out'. There are implications for the types of questions asked of men to detect depressive symptoms.