When people discuss perinatal mental health, much of the focus is on moms. This is definitely important, as statistics show that 1 in 5 moms will struggle with some form of perinatal mood or anxiety disorder. The numbers may be even higher.
But did you know... dads can also get postpartum depression (PPD)? Depending on which site you are looking at, stats are roughly 1 in 10 dads. That is way more than many people realize, and WAY more than we are talking about.
Why is this?
Men with depression look very different from women with depression. Men are not weepy, sad, or talking about their feelings (in general). They tend to become withdrawn and easy to anger, and pour themselves into their jobs, hobbies, and, sometimes, substances (alcohol or drugs). The odds of depression increase further if the dad has ever experienced depression in the past, and if his partner is depressed.
We need to talk about this. Dads need a "village" too. But their village may look very different, so it's important to recognize this.
Here are some ideas for dads who are struggling postpartum, and really need an outlet for that:
- Self care is important. Aside from sleeping as well as possible, and eating, other things like exercise and time for yourself are key. Is it harder with an infant? Yes. But not impossible. If your partner is struggling too, have a discussion about how you are both going to take care of yourselves. It would benefit you to work out a plan or schedule for this. It may also be necessary to enlist help of others- such as friends or family members who can come be with your partner, so that you do not feel guilty taking time to go to the gym or going out with friends. It may mean asking someone to take the baby for an hour or two so you can go have a date with your significant other.
- Support... while there is definitely a shortage of men's mental health resources, especially postpartum, it is not impossible to find. Below, I will list some specific resources geared towards men, some specifically for depression, but others just more about the challenges of being a dad. Feeling at times like you don't know what you're doing. Feeling like you aren't sure what to do with a newborn who eats, sleeps, cries and poops. Wondering what happened to your partner.... while men tend to not talk about feelings, it is OK to share your story and speak your truth.
- Professional help may be a good idea. In my practice, it seems that men have an easier time accepting the idea of taking medication for depression versus going to therapy. AND THIS IS PERFECTLY FINE. If you have felt depressed, down, hopeless, angry, or having thoughts of running away or harming yourself, medication may be an option to explore. If you do decide you would like to talk with someone, whether that is therapy or a support group, it is really important to find someone who is trained in perinatal mental health or understands male depression. Resources like Postpartum Support International, and in Minnesota, Pregnancy and Postpartum Support MN, are great places to look to find people who will get it. It is hard to open up to a stranger about what is supposed to be the greatest event of your life, so make sure you have someone who understands. It is also an option to attend some sessions with your partner. If she is going to therapy, ask if you can come along sometime. She will probably LOVE that, and it is very helpful as a therapist to get both perspectives, and for me to assess depression or anxiety in both members of the couple.
Dads are SO important. Your relationship with your baby matters too!
Locally (in Minnesota):
FaceIt Foundation: http://www.faceitfoundation.org/
Dads groups can be hit or miss. But some places to check are http://www.meetup.com/ and Facebook. PSI also has phone chats for men, and PPSM has a free HelpLine for all new parents and their providers who are in need of resources and support.
P.S-- there are NO books specifically for dads with PPD!!!