Lifting the Weight.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Ridge, Damien
Pub Date: 06/22/2009
Publication: Name: International Journal of Men's Health Publisher: Men's Studies Press Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Men's Studies Press ISSN: 1532-6306
Issue: Date: Summer, 2009 Source Volume: 8 Source Issue: 2
Topic: NamedWork: Lifting the Weight (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Kantor, Martin
Accession Number: 207462012
Full Text: Lifting the Weight, by Martin Kantor. New York: Praeger, 2007, 232 pp.

Martin Kantor, a North American psychiatrist, is a prolific writer, with over a dozen books to his name. In his book, Lifting the Weight: Understanding Depression in Men, Its Causes and Solutions, Kantor argues that depression in men can be "atypical" in that it may be experienced and expressed in ways that are different to women; for example, as a hypomanic denial of depression. Theoretically, the book tends towards a psychiatric perspective on depression (the use of categories of diagnosis, for example, personality types) and relies on a psychodynamic framework. Thus, the book would be of most interest to professionals and clients with a similar theoretical orientation. Nevertheless, the author is also at pains to establish a holistic approach to understanding and treating depression in men, and this broad perspective is a strength of the book. Indeed, I suspect that many if not most counselors and psychotherapists nowadays would incorporate multiple theoretical perspectives and approaches, where appropriate, even if they were mainly trained in one theoretical tradition.

To his credit, Kantor avoids overly complicated writing and jargon, attempting to appeal to a broader church than professionals. Additionally, the author is obviously well attuned to the issues facing men prone to depression. His sensitivity to men and their issues is a real strength of the book. Thus, readers will find some fascinating reading here on a broad range of issues including sadomasochism and male depression, male lear of success and depression, the translation of male depression into hypomania, anger and self- or other-criticism, and dealing with male client resistances (for example, excessively blaming others or not feeling the need for help). The psychotherapy and self-help chapters are particularly useful in showing the broad tools that men can use (counselling, exercise, work, diet, bibliotherapy, improving relationships) to tell a better story about themselves and recover from the downward spiral of depression (Ridge, 2009).

The author does not present himself as an aloof "expert" and is willing to get down and dirty with other men, using examples of his own struggles with depressive cognitions to illustrate points. For instance, Kantor often uses the trials and tribulations with his (apparently) difficult neighbors to illustrate points about depression. While the examples do not always work clearly (and one wonders just what kind of neighborhood Kantor lives in!) these illustrations always work to humanize the author. Although only used sparingly, direct quotes from clients and others work best to illustrate points made. I would encourage the author to obtain the required permissions to increase the use of such quotes in future, publications.

Additionally, there is some very good treatment advice here that is wide enough to be of help to professionals broadly (and men in treatment themselves), including how to increase the chances of success working with men (the use of patience, addressing guilt and anxiety), as well as common mistakes to avoid (stereotypical advice about work and vacations).

Being primarily an account of actual practitioner experience and wisdom, the book is less engaged with the wider social science literature on men, distress and depression (Brownhill, Wilhelm, Barclay, & Schmied, 2005; Emslie, Ridge, Ziebland, & Hunt, 2006, 2007; O'Brien, Hunt, & Hart, 2005; B. Smith, 1999; Winkler, Pjrek, & Kasper, 2005). There is currently an interesting debate in the literature about whether or not it is useful to see men as so different to women in their expression of depression and their treatment needs. For example, to what extent is atypical depression a useful category anyway (Branney & White, 2008; Smith, 2008)? In addition, while some professionals argue that men need specific health services designed for them, others argue that men's needs can be taken into account in the current service system. While the book does not shed much light on these kinds of debates, further clarifying research is needed in this neglected area of men and mental health anyway. At times, the author has the tendency to over-generalize some interpretations (for example, "some individuals in our lives seem capable of creating depression in almost any man" [p. 103]). It is also difficult to know whether some issues identified in the book are really about men and gender difference, or could apply more broadly to women as well. But this is an ongoing problem in the gender analysis of mental health issues (Emslie et al., 2007). Men and depression is a very complicated area in which professionals will continue to debate for some time to come.

In summary, Kantor should be commended for putting out there his best understanding from the perspective of an experienced practitioner. 1 believe this book is an excellent place to start for those practitioners and clients who wish to learn more about depression among a surprisingly neglected group--men.

Damien Ridge

University of Westminster

References

Branney, P., & White, A. (2008). Big boys don't cry: Depression and men. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 14(4), 256-262.

Brownhill, S., Wilhelm, K., Barclay, L., & Schmied, V. (2005). "Big build:" Hidden depression in men. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 39, 921-931.

Emslie, C., Ridge, D., Ziebland, S., & Hunt, K. (2006). Men's accounts of depression: Reconstructing or resisting hegemonic masculinity? Social Science & Medicine, 62, 2246-2257.

Emslie, C., Ridge, D., Ziebland, S., & Hunt, K. (2007). Exploring men's and women's experiences of depression and engagement with health professionals: More similarities than differences? A qualitative interview study. BMC Family Practice, 8, 43 (published online 2007 July 24. doi: 10.1186/1471-2296-8-43).

O'Brien, R., Hunt, K., & Hart, G. (2005). "It's caveman stuff, but that is to a certain extent how guys still operate:" Men's accounts of masculinity and help seeking. Social Science & Medicine, 61(3), 503-516.

Ridge, D. (2009). Recovery from depression using the narrative approach: A guide for doctors, complementary therapists and mental health professionals. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Smith, B. (1999). The abyss: Exploring depresion through the narrative of the self. Qualitative Inquiry 5(2), 264-279.

Smith, M. J. (2008). Big boys do cry: Invited commentary on ... Big Boys Don't Cry. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 14(4), 263-264.

Winkler, D., Pjrek, E., & Kasper, S. (2005). Anger attacks in depression--Evidence liar a male depressive syndrome. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 74(5), 303-307.
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