A new study has found that men are at a higher risk of postnatal depression than previously thought. The study, out of Lund University in Sweden, also stated that it is hard to get an accurate statistic on how many men actually suffer from postnatal depression due to most cases being undetected.
Now, I feel real bad talking about men’s mental health in relation childbirth. I feel very awkward raising awareness about postnatal depression in men. After all, it’s women who carry and grow a baby inside them for nine months. It is women whose body changes forever. It is women who experience morning sickness and crazy cravings. It is women who go through labour. It is women whose career is often effected. So what right do men have complaining about how they feel during a time like this? I completely agree. But we can’t deny the reality and impact of mental illness. And besides, beliefs like these; beliefs that express that fathers “aren’t worthy of” postnatal depression, can be the reason why it often goes undetected.
Mental illness, and postnatal depression included, is gender impartial.
This is not an article trying to take away from what women go through to bring a human life into this world. This is an article simply highlighting that many more men than we currently realise, experience a real mental illness at a time in their life that should be filled with joy. Mental illness often strikes during times of massive life change — loss of a job, loss of a loved one, breakdown in a relationship, injury, and even the birth of a child.
Mental illness, and postnatal depression included, is gender impartial. Escriba-Aguir and Artazcoz (2011) found that 9.3 per cent of mothers were diagnosed as having depression at 3 months and 4.4 per cent at 12 months post-partum. Alternatively, 3.4 per cent and 4.0 per cent of fathers were diagnosed as having depression 3 months and 12 months post-partum respectively. This demonstrates that postnatal depression also strikes the father. Moreover, it indicates that postnatal depression effects both women and men evenly after twelve months post-partum. While it’s important for us fathers to be there for the mother of our child, and of course, our child, we must also look after ourselves. Like the airline crew demonstrate before every flight, you must first look after yourself before attempting to care for others.
That research I referred to out of Lund University also found that the screening method used to detect postnatal depression in new fathers wasn’t comprehensive enough. It failed to detect symptoms such as irritation, restlessness, low stress tolerance, and lack of self-control. Strikingly, 83 per cent of fathers kept their symptoms to themselves. Maybe this is a lack of knowledge about postnatal depression in men; possibly it’s a male trait to provide for your family despite how you might be feeling; or perhaps it’s a masculine issue of embarrassment. Whatever the reason, men need to understand that postnatal depression is a real mental illness that can also affect them.
Whether you think you or someone you know might be experiencing postnatal depression, there are some really good sites you can go to. To find out more about the causes, risk factors, symptoms, and how to get help, here are some sites I found and liked:
- PANDA – How is Dad Going? : http://www.howisdadgoing.org.au/
- Health Direct: https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/fathers-and-depression
- Beyondblue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/men/what-causes-anxiety-and-depression-in-men/new-fathers
- Babycenter: https://www.babycenter.com.au/a1046187/postnatal-depression-in-dads
But most importantly, if you think you could be experiencing a mental illness, once you’ve done your reading online, make an appointment with your doctor and speak with them about ways in which they can help you.
If you or your friends or family are experiencing signs of mental illness, and you need help before a doctor, here is a list of numbers for organisations that can help:
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue 1300 224 636
- Kids Help Line 1800 55 1800
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