BOWIE — City Councilman Michael Esteve has been managing anxiety and depression since he was a kid. Back then he could not figure out why exactly he was feeling this way. It all became clear to him when he was in high school.
During his senior year, he learned more about the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and it all became clear to him. He fit the profile perfectly.
In the years since then, Esteve, a lifelong Bowie resident and District 1 councilman, has gotten professional help for his illness and has the support of family and friends. Recently, he has gone public with his personal battle in the hopes of helping others to see that they are not alone.
“I’ve been pretty open about this with everybody, family, friends, constituents, mostly because when I was 14 or 15, if I had heard someone was dealing with similar issues I would have recognized the symptoms in myself and I would have gotten help a lot earlier,” Esteve said. “I suffered silently for a long time mostly because it just didn’t even occur to me that I had an actual condition that was diagnosable and treatable.”
Esteve participated in the University of Maryland Medical System’s (UMMS) event, “Not All Wounds Are Visible – Community Conversations: Let’s Talk About Depression and Anxiety,” as a panelist on Nov. 28, to bring awareness to anxiety and depression in men.
Members of the community, health experts and people with first-hand experience gathered during the event to discuss the issues that men are not so easily open about to empower men to be open to recognizing their struggles.
The event contained a variety of speakers such as William Regenold, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine as well as the director of geriatric psychiatry, adult inpatient service and electroconvulsive therapy service at the University of Maryland Medical Center, former Baltimore Ravens player Jamal Lewis, social worker Tia Blue and UM Upper Chesapeake Health Director of Geriatric Psychiatry Adam Rosenblatt.
The speakers led a variety of presentations throughout the day including a discussion by Rosenblatt on managing depression and anxiety as an older adult, the road to resiliency and recovery presented by Kim Burton of the Mental Health Association of Maryland and Lewis shared his own story of his struggles with depression.
As the first presenter of the day, Regenold described to the audience some basics of what anxiety and depression are, how they present themselves and the differences between men and women.
According to Regenold, a National Health Interview Survey said that nine percent of men in the United States have daily feelings of depression or anxiety, one of three men took medication because of those feelings and one of four spoke to a mental health professional.
The survey also found that men are half as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depressive disorders compared to women. However, the suicide rate in men is four times that of women, suggesting that there is a lot of untreated mental illness in men.
“The speaking up is a major thing, seeing our culture’s view of masculinity which often sees mental health problems as character flaws or weaknesses in personality rather than as disorders like other problems like cancer or diabetes,” Regenold said.
“So I think a lot of it really is hesitance for men to see mental health as something that is as deserving as any other medical problem as something that needs treatment and health and getting that treatment is nothing to be ashamed of.”
Additionally, men express depression differently than women do, Regenold said. Men are more likely to express their feelings in a more active way that includes impulsive behavior, rage, treating their problems with alcohol or drugs rather than seeking a therapist, or worse, killing themselves.
“Although men are half as likely as women to get diagnosed with depression or anxiety and also half as likely to ask for help, they are four times as likely to kill themselves by suicide,” Regenold said. “Although women attempt suicide considerably more than men, men kill themselves by suicide much more often than women.”
It goes back to the stigma of weakness associated with it which is why it is essential to provide a place for men to feel comfortable talking about these issues.
“I think between the lack of specialized centers for men and the cultural bias against men reporting symptoms of depression and anxiety,” Regenold said. “I think because of all that it’s important to provide these kinds of platforms and forums for men to talk about these issues and for that to be in a public way, so other people who are suffering with symptoms of depression and anxiety see that as an example.”
After discovering what it was that he was dealing with, Esteve then talked to his adopted parents about it and soon found that it runs in his biological family. Lucky for him, he had a good support system of friends and family who he could talk to and good healthcare to get professional help.
Nevertheless, it has been an ongoing battle for him. Esteve was hospitalized in 2013 and again in May of this year as he can have short or long-term episodes of depression. He has coped with it by learning to pace himself, being super open with his family and friends and recognizing his limits.
Knowing of his own struggles and how far he has come in dealing with them, Esteve said it is important for him to be open with his anxiety and depression to encourage more men to get help for their own.
“Men, in particular, more than women, have a harder time,” Esteve said. “They see it more of a personal failure. Millions of people, good healthy citizens, struggle. The more we can normalize it, get more people to hear the message, we can make people feel empowered to get help.”