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Experts stress importance of men fostering friendships to ward of depression

Marian Searcy, a 12-year barber at Edward's Barber Shop in Macon, said that he always tries to be social with everyone that comes in to get their hair cut because he knows that one word can change their day / Matt Thielke (WGXA)

MACON, Ga. -- Experts say that middle aged men's isolation from friendships with other men can pose serious health risks.

Don Tillman with Coliseum Center for Behavioral Health says that depression and loneliness among men should be taken more seriously.

Tillman said that it is very easy for men to slip into a rut as they get into a routine with work and family life. He said that when men go to work, go home, go to sleep and do it all over again daily, it is easy to neglect their friendships, which can cause sadness.

He said that in order to avoid depression and loneliness caused by this isolation, it is important to foster those friendships and stay healthy socially.

Tillman encourages men to get out of that rut by taking the time, for one day per week for instance, to be intentional and call up an old friend to plan a time to get together and talk about life.

This can be a new activity or simply a visit to a barber shop.

Marian Searcy, a 12-year barber at Edward's Barber Shop in Macon, said that he always tries to be social with everyone that comes in to get their hair cut because he knows that one word can change their day.

Searcy said that you never know what someone is going through and if they need a friend to talk to, so it is important to reach out and be that person for them if they need someone to listen.

He said he sees the importance of men getting together and talking about life in general, wherever that may be.

Jo Anna Brett said she enjoys spending time with friends so she can talk to someone outside of her husband that she can relate to. But Brett also notices her husband has a tougher time getting out of the house to foster friendships with other men.

"He has had a friend for 20-something years and they haven't spoken in several months," Brett said. "I know if he picked up the phone, they would be right back to where they were, but they won't make time for each other."

Connie Clover said her husband struggles with the same thing, and it's tough to get him to spend time with his friends.

"Once they get together with their buddies, it's totally fine. But the concept of saying 'Hey man, do you want to go hang out?' That's just a little awkward and cheesy for guys," Clover said. "Time can slip away and you find them wanting to reach out, but they don't."

Frank Kirk is retired and said he's tried to make spending time with friends a priority with his free time.

"I think women are a little bit more open about it and men are a little bit more reserved," Kirk said. "But as you get older in life, it becomes more important to you."

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