To the outside world, Emme Aronson lived a charmed life. She was a successful model, creative director of her own clothing line, a television host, lecturer, and mother of a beautiful baby girl. Only her family and closest friends knew she was actually dealing with a devastating situation that is all too familiar to wives across the country: a husband who has depression but won’t get help.
Phillip Aronson, the wonderful man she married, found himself in a downward spiral of depression, even attempting suicide at one point to escape his pain. Phil was always an energetic partner, excited to go to work each morning either to the showroom to check on the latest graphic designs for the Emme line or to attend meetings about some new project. He was a caring and loving father. But as depression enveloped him, Phil “had no energy, no appetite, no drive. And this was in sharp contrast to how he usually was. He was depriving himself of everything, and when you don’t nourish yourself — physically, intellectually, or emotionally — your body tends to shut down.”
In their recently released book written in both their voices, Morning Has Broken, A Couple’s Journey Through Depression, Emme says, “No one knew what it was like, to be caught up in it like we were. It’s a lonely thing to be married to a man in the depths of a depression with an infant daughter at home. It was all about getting through each day. I never felt more alone.” Soon, Emme realized he could not even watch their daughter, Toby, and everything changed: the logistics of running the household and her ability to work. Emme writes that every day they lost a little piece of Phil, and during the worst period, somebody needed to be with Phil at all times, “and that somebody needed to be me.”
Men and Depression
U.S. statistics state that women experience depression much more frequently than men: 1 out of every 4 to 5 women, compared to 1 out of every 8 to 10 men. However, many experts feel these statistics are simply wrong. “Men experience depression probably just as much as women, but they aren’t diagnosed,” explains Julie Totten, President and Founder of Families for Depression Awareness, a non-profit national organization. “Depressed men often get angry at others and abuse alcohol or drugs. Depressed women on the other hand may blame themselves, but then they ask their doctor for help.”
The consequences of untreated depression are serious and sometimes fatal. Depression is a leading cause of disability so many men can’t work. Depression also puts men at a high risk for suicide; they are four times more likely to take their lives than women.
When husbands have depression, it can tear apart their marriage and family. Wives may take over and hope the problem will go away, or on the opposite end, withdraw, feeling betrayed and angry. More often, they alternate back and forth between these behaviors and emotions. Fifty percent of wives caring for a depressed husband will develop depression themselves.
The good news is that depression is highly treatable. Once diagnosed, most people who get help report substantial relief.
The problem is that many men deny they are depressed and resist treatment (usually medication and/or talk therapy). Their belief: depression is a woman’s disease.