For an example of adult male depression, Adam Kleinman points to a holiday favorite – Jimmy Stewart’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” where main character George Bailey moves through a lifetime of emotional experiences.

The movie “does a great job of depicting male depression,” said Kleinman, a licensed clinical social worker and certified trauma specialist at Choices Clinical Counseling on Bedford Street.

“There is trauma of George’s younger brother almost drowning,” Kleinman said. “His stress at work. His anger at family – all leading to George’s thoughts of suicide.”

In working with men and depression, Derik S. Berkebile, a licensed clinical social worker on Eisenhower Boulevard, shares the misconceptions of counseling.

“They are eyeing the severity of the problem,” Berkebile said.

“If it is too severe, they believe it can’t be solved.”

Despite the advances in mental health counseling and the protection of HIPAA privacy laws, the stigma of seeking mental health services has kept depressed men at bay. Especially, when the assumption is men don’t solve their problems on a couch, talking to a therapist.

According to Berkebile, the perception of depression gets labeled as weakness. This label is self-defeating. Depressed men should remember that emotions have a purpose, and getting “in touch” with those feelings can be empowering – which can be done by meeting with a therapist.

“ ‘It’s a Wonderful life’ was about two things – redemption and guidance,” Kleinman said.

“The angel Clarence became a guide in helping George see his life. Like Clarence, the counselor/therapist is a guide.” 

Privacy, accessibility 

The pandemic has caused mental health professionals to shift to telehealth services. Berkebile said many insurances companies have waived copays. He said these counseling conditions are good for men who want to maintain their anonymity.

“I meet in person and online,” says Berkebile. “I am accepting new clients. You can be counseled at home or on your lunch break.”

Though Kleinman does only telehealth and is not accepting new patients, he agrees that digital counseling has improved access to mental health – for those with good internet access.

“I see patients local and as far as Pittsburgh,” Kleinman said. “I have visually impaired clients. They appreciate not having to drive to see me.” 

Race and religion 

Black counselors and therapists are almost nonexistent in Cambria County. So where does this leave men of color with depression – especially those who question whether a non-Black professional is a good fit, or if they would be better served going outside the area.

Kleinman says for trauma therapy, 5% of his clients are Black.

In regards to depression, Berkebile says he can help Black men with depression. He believes problems are not color specific.

For those who choose to give non-Black providers a chance, “they help educate white professionals about cultural norms and values in the Black community,” Berkebile said. “That knowledge helps the African-American clients who come after them.”

Depressed men who identify as Christians sometimes reject counseling measures, the professionals said. These men can hold onto the belief that their faith will get them through.

Kleinman has clients who expressed having relationships with God, and he does not object.

“Faith/religion is a good supportive element,” he said, “but one needs the clinical side as well.” 

Joy of meditation 

Kleinman and Berkebile acknowledge as men who guide other men that they are not immune to stress, depression and other unhealthy situations.

To ensure his mental health is in order, Kleinman sees a counselor for professional and personal reasons.

“Dealing in trauma therapy, people can bring things up,” Kleinman said. “If I haven’t dealt with it, I can get worked up.”

Once a week, Berkebile sits alone by the fire pit and gets quiet. Meditation helps him spend time with his thoughts and emotions.

“Most men don’t know the benefits to meditation,” Berkebile says. “Men also write it off as a female thing.”

While meditation is something women are more likely to try, men are not exposed to, Berkebile said. For depressed males he does recommend it.

“If you can’t sit quietly for 10 minutes, attach yourself to something positive,” he said. “Stare at a family photo or a special place.”

LaToya Bicko is a Johnstown freelance writer.

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