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Despite significantly higher risk of suicide and co-morbid substance abuse, college age men are far less likely than college age women to seek help when depressed (ACHA, 2010). This “gender gap” has led researchers to suggest that college men are experiencing a mental health crisis (Davies, Shen-Miller, & Isacco, 2010). Several theories have been suggested for this gender gap including: (a) barriers caused by male gender socialization, (b) inaccurate diagnostic criteria, and (c) men experience different symptoms when depressed (Cochran, 2005; Levin & Sanacora, 2007). Additionally, the current researcher hypotheses that fear of femininity is a core aspect of the gender gap. The current study utilized a randomized analogue design with a series of vignettes about men with depression to identify: (a) symptoms that men believe indicate depression, (b) beliefs of about the masculinity and femininity of men experiencing depression, and (c) the influence of gender socialization on psychological help-seeking. This study also evaluated Perlick and Manning’s (2007) Model of Male Help-Seeking. Participants were men (N=366) enrolled at a Midwestern university. A series of ANOVAs revealed that men viewed a vignette character experiencing Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) as “less masculine” and “more feminine” than similar characters reporting symptoms congruent with Major Depressive Disorder-Male Type (MDD-MT; Pollack, 1998), a mix of symptoms of MDD and MDD-MT, and career concerns. Additionally, men identified characters reporting traditional symptoms of MDD as most depressed. As well, a series of linear regressions suggest that adherence to aspects of male gender socialization (i.e., Gender Role Conflict and Conformity to Masculine Norms) are related to decreased engagement in seeking help from professionals, friends, and family as well as increased engagement in avoidant coping behaviors. Despite past suggestions that positive psychological traits (i.e., hope and well-being; Magyar-Moe, 2009) may buffer against psychological distress, hope and well-being did not moderate the relationship between male gender role socialization and help-seeking behaviors. Last, results of path analysis did not reveal support for the Model of Male Help-Seeking (Perlick & Manning, 2007). Implications for mental health practitioners, strengths and limitations of the study, and suggestions for future research are provided.
Advisor: M. Meghan Davidson