As a big advocate for the channels of communication always being open between dads and their families, friends and partners, I have been reading up on dads’ mental health. It has given me a new perspective on a subject that is certainly not talked about enough, especially when you consider the numbers involved. A survey by the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) in 2015 found that about one in three dads reported concern about their mental health. Yet there is no requirement for routine mental health screening for new fathers.
Postnatal depression can develop in parents after their baby is born and is a very common problem for new and experienced parents alike. For a very long-time postnatal depression in women went undiagnosed and unacknowledged. As a result, many women suffered through this challenge alone without any legitimate support from a doctor or support group, and perhaps not even feeling they could talk about it with their partner or friends. What a terrible situation. Let’s not continue to make the same mistake with dads.
The first thing we need to challenge is the assumption that dads can’t get postnatal depression because it is purely hormonal. It isn’t. It’s much more complex, based on an individual’s experience, psychology and history which come into play on top of the stresses of being a new parent. There are multiple factors that can lead to it. For example, being a dad aged 25 or younger, having a partner that is suffering from it, having a history of depression and/or anxiety and not being in a relationship with the child’s mother are all potential factors – but this list is not exhaustive and you may have all of these factors and still not experience postnatal depression.
I believe that postnatal depression in dads needs to be recognised on a wider basis and every single dad needs to know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Everybody needs support.
And there is support out there.
Father’s Reaching Out is a website dedicated to dads and mental health, and the dad behind it, Mark Williams, has a powerful story, which you can watch here: https://youtu.be/vIUWWPIVyTM. His website is here: https://www.reachingoutpmh.co.uk/
The hashtag #howareyoudad is used to raise awareness and spark conversations about dad’s mental health in the period around childbirth.
The website From Dads to Dads offers informative articles and advice as well as forums and other support where dads can really have the opportunity to interact and talk to dads who’ve been through exactly the same problems. http://www.fromdadstodads.org.uk/
The NCT has a list of 10 things everyone should know about postnatal depression in dads: https://www.nct.org.uk/life-parent/emotions/postnatal-depression-dads-10-things-you-should-know
Remember dads, we’re here to support each other. If you need help, ask for it. If you’re worried that another dad, or your partner, may be suffering from postnatal depression, reach out to them. As parents, we’re in this together.