MHT editor, and father, DanParton (16/4/12) is concerned about the reported rise in depression in new dads:
In the past week, the issue of depression in new dads has been in the news. While some may have glibly dismissed this as men needing to pull themselves together and get on with it, the condition is something that requires more attention, understanding and treatment.
It all started with a report in the journal Psychological Medicine by researchers at Oxford University, who found that depressed dads are more negative in the way that they talk to their babies. Although the effect of this on the children concerned is not yet known - the researchers called for more research on this question - postnatal depression in mums has been shown to place their children at increased risk of developing emotional and behavioural problems.
The story did not make many headlines in the mainstream media,but was picked up by a couple of national newspaper columnists, who dismissed the issue, saying, in essence, that dads should just "manup" and stop being so self-absorbed.
That may make for a controversial column, but it ignores a potentially serious problem. The Oxford study says that 4-5% of dads are thought to have depression in the post-natal period and while that may be only half the number of mums who have the condition, if accurate, it is still a significant figure, which cannot be ignored.
It is easy to understand why new dads might become depressed.Becoming a father is a stressful - though wonderful - experience.It changes your life entirely, and you are responsible for a person who relies on you completely. Change is hard on the psyche. And, of course, some new fathers may have already been living with depression before their children were born.
So, simply dismissing this issue, out-of-hand, helps no-one -any more than it does for people suffering from any other form of depression. It just exacerbates the existing stigma around male mental health problems and could discourage men from seeking help,which in turn makes the effects worse and longer-lasting for them -and possibly for their partners and children as well.
If a new dad is experiencing depression, then he should be encouraged to seek help and be given the understanding and support he needs. It isn't about being a 'sissy' or 'weak'; it's about being human and needing help. Nobody should be condemned for that.