postpartum depression in dads
“He’s such a puss”
“Suck it up, dude!”
“This isn’t real! No way this is real!”
“He’s just looking for attention!”
These, and other comments, were what I heard the other morning while listening to a local (New England) sports radio station. The topic? An interview on Deadspin with Tony Reali, host of ESPN’s Around the Horn, where he opened up about his postpartum depression, anxiety, and intrusive thoughts.
I have written quite a bit about my personal struggle with Postpartum Anxiety, OCD and PTSD. The stigma that surrounds Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) is overwhelming. Moms don’t want to tell anyone they are having these feelings, for fear of being judged, viewed as a “bad mom” or not loving their kids, and in some cases, fear of having their children taken from them.
These fears are valid. I mean, take a look at the comments section of any news article about a mom who died from suicide, or whose intrusive thoughts have caused harm. Actually, you don’t even need to look that far. Do you have a friend who is a new mom? Scroll her news feed for any status updates about motherhood being “Hard” and you’ll find plenty of “Enjoy every moment!!” and “Oh, you’ll miss this!” and “This is the BEST time of your life” type comments. It gives us the idea that we can’t have bad days, we can’t feel anything but constant joy! You see how hard it is for moms. Now, what about dads? How do you think they feel?
Paternal Postnatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders are real. In fact, research shows that 1 in 10 new dads experience this. And just like in moms, there is a whole spectrum. Anxiety, Depression, OCD, PTSD, Intrusive thoughts… Dads experience this, too. (As do adoptive parents, foster parents, non-gestational partners, etc.)
The assumption is that PPD is just a “women’s issue” and it’s all about the hormonal changes a woman experiences during and after pregnancy. While hormones do play a role for many, there is much more to it. Men can have the same risk factors as women.
Some of those risk factors include:
- Family or personal history of mental illness
- history of trauma or abuse
- financial stress and marital instability (job loss, divorce, moving, general changes in the family dynamic)
- struggles with infertility, miscarriage, the loss of a child
- NICU stay, a sick/medically fragile child
- Birth trauma, emergency c-section, complications during childbirth
- Feelings of rejection and abandonment
- Perfectionist personality
- Lack of support
And, there is a correlation between the health of mom, and the health of her family. If mom is suffering from a PMAD, Dad is more likely to suffer from one as well.
Think about it. A husband watches his wife almost die during childbirth. A dad who went through the pain of infertility or the loss of a pregnancy (or multiple pregnancies) The father who had an abusive dad, or no dad, and is struggling to feel confident in his role as a father. A dad who had a vision of what fatherhood would be like, only to find it is nothing like that vision–perhaps because his child is sick, or his marriage is suffering, or he is having trouble providing, he’s not sleeping and he’s working overtime to make ends meet. These are not uncommon scenarios.
Listening to that (very popular) morning radio show, made me shake with rage. I thought of the men who are suffering, listening to that on their way to work, or in their office, and having it drilled into their heads, over and over, that they are losers. Cry babies. Weak. Selfish. And maybe they can ignore the jerks on the radio, but what if they are listening with friends or coworkers, and those guys are all “Right on! What a loser! What a p***y!” We just keep hammering it home that men aren’t allowed to have these feelings. Men need to be tough guys. Emotion is for women. We make depression in men the punchline of a joke, And then we wonder why men are dying. We feign shock when depression kills another one of our friends or our favorite actor or musician, or athlete.
Here are a few statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
- Men die by suicide 3.5x more often than women.
- White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2015.
- The rate of suicide is highest in middle age — white men in particular.
Now, I am not implying that Postpartum Depression in Dads = suicide. Obviously, that is not the case. But I think we really need to be looking at the bigger picture, too. We need to make sure that EVERYONE feels safe reaching out, asking for help. This isn’t a death sentence, there is hope and there is help.
So, local radio personalities with a HUGE male following… instead of making fun of the men who are BRAVE enough to come forward and share their stories, perhaps you could provide resources to your male listeners.
Here are a few you can start with:
Resources for Fathers – Postpartum Support International
Postpartum Dads (For Dads/partners whose wife/partner is struggling with PMAD)
A Dad’s Story of Male Postpartum Depression – Postpartum Progress
Sad Dads (Science and statistic filled medical journal article)
New Fathers Suffer Postpartum Depression Too – The Good Men Project
When Dad Has Postpartum Depression – PsychCentral
Men and Mental Health -NIMH
Sad Dads – Parents Magazine
Why Dads Get Postpartum Depression – Newsweek
Postpartum Depression in Dads – Today’s Parent
(Men)tal Health Awareness – Papa Does Preach
Dads, what you are experiencing is real. There is no shame. Reach out, talk to a therapist or trusted friend, send me an e-mail (sweetlilblog @ gmail.com)
Don’t suffer in silence. Please know that you are not alone.