People make the mistake of planning for retirement - not for an ongoing life. ‘Retire’ means to ‘remove from view...from society’. Retirees may find that they do not have a single reason to get out of bed in the morning. Their lives have become meaningless and they themselves have become valueless.
Instead of enjoying one long holiday, they find that their life is one of boredom, emptiness, isolation, loneliness, and helplessness. Many loose the sense of purpose which directed their working life. With this comes loss of self-esteem, with those who were previously the most successful being now often the most vunerable. Life appears futile. Despair and depression set in with devastating results.
Depressed men are three times as likely as women to commit suicide. The suicide rate in the general population is 0.01% (10 in 100,000). The rates for depressed people are 10-30 times higher, and for elderly men five times higher.
US studies have found that the risk of people experiencing depression rises six-fold in those experiencing highly stressful events such as financial disaster, bereavement, or loss of a job. The situation is compounded at certain more vunerable stages in life eg in childbirth and menopause for women, and (most importantly here) retirement in men.
A variety of treatments can be effective in treating or helping people cope with depression: including medical anti-depressants, and self-help modalities (eg. meditation). However, men tend to resist seeking help from doctors, psychologists or psychiatrists - let alone “new age” healers! The negative associations of depression play some part in this reluctance, with depression being linked to madness, failure and weakness. Not only are people ashamed of admitting to such a condition, they may have a dread of being institutionalized in ‘the looney bin” or ‘the mad house’.
In “Depression Explained”, Gwendoline Smith points out that “keeping people occupied is far more useful than allowing them to sit and dwell on how bad they feel...inactivity and social isolation can influence and reinforce depression...men are often less skilled at accessing support, and older married men have often been dependent on their wives for...social contact.”
It can be seen here that Men’s Sheds can play a vital role in reducing social isolation, and hence depression, by providing normal, non-judgemental spaces for men to meet without the negative associations of alcohol or gambling. By keeping busy with community and personal projects, and working shoulder-to-shoulder with others, men can develop a sense of purpose and an experience of belonging which can greatly assist in escaping from a living nightmare to a life of meaning and fulfillment.