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Why I was at risk of Postnatal Depression – A Dad

We now know now that there are a range of circumstances that mums suffer depression in the postnatal period ( The first 12 months after the baby is born) and of course that includes all new parents of course fathers.

As you may know I come from a personal experience, speaking to well over two thousands dads maybe closer to the three thousand now from all backgrounds around the world ( thanks to social media) and of course working with my mentor Dr Jane Hanley ( In the field of perinatal mental health for over 33 years) with other professionals.

So let talk about my experience and why I was at risk as a dad. 

I was depressed as a new dad during this time and would have never had known I went through it if it wasnt until years later while having a breakdown after my mothers cancer diagnosis and grandfather passing from Dementia.

I hadn’t dealt with everything what I know now. Like so many other dads are going into other services  years later like mums I seen as a Independent Mental Health Advocate with undiagnosed Birth trauma (Postnatal PTSD)/Perinatal Health illnesses.

There are many other reasons why

  1. I was diagnosed at 40 years of age with ADHD Dyslexia which I have self managed and still manage to this day as a 44 year old Dad. Depression is a chronic disorder for many patients, as is attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Most studies indicate prevalence rates of 9 to 38 percent for depressive disorders in children with ADHD. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2990565/
  2. Low self esteem from years of being told I wouldn’t do anything with my life from 80s schooling ( I don’t blame teachers but there was physical and mental abuse ) as education around ADHD and Dyslexia wasn’t really known in my school. I have great parents and family around me so nothing from my parents.  Low self-esteem often begins in childhood. Teachers, friends, siblings, parents, and even the media send us messages about ourselves, both positive and negative. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/raising-low-self-esteem/#what-causes-low-self-esteem
  3. History of alcohol and drugs for seven years from as young 13 years of age ( alcohol) 16 to 23 years of age (drugs) Weekends mostly.The father’s neuroticism and substance abuse/dependence (Huang & Warner, 2005).
  4. Periods of low mood and anxiety for years but NOT depression like I experienced after my son was born and in 2010/11. The father’s own previous history of severe depression and his high prenatal symptom scores for depression and anxiety (Ramchandani & Stein, 2008).
  5. Witnessing Michelle go through a traumatic birth and having a panic attack thinking both Michelle and my baby were going to die. https://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/for-parents/fathers-partners-page
  6. Michelle was involved in Crisis teams and went through severe depression in the postnatal period. ( Up to 50 percent of partners suffer depression looking after a partner with postnatal depression (Goodman 2004)
  7. I couldn’t bond or any feeling of love at the early weeks but faked it but did after being home for six months looking after Michelle and Ethan that bond and attachment grow. http://www.attachfromscratch.com/paternal-bond.html
  8. The lack of sleep and worry about Michelle. https://psychcentral.com/lib/sleep-and-mental-health-disorders/
  9. I was self employed and with no money coming in our debts were piling up and felt as a dad I should be the provider back then. Low income new fathers, including young fathers are particularly vulnerable to depression, seemingly due to interacting factors. In a low income African American sample, 56% of new fathers were found to have ‘depressive symptoms indicating cause for clinical concern’. Correlates included resource challenges, transportation and permanent housing difficulties; problems with alcohol and drugs; health problems/disability; and a criminal conviction history (Anderson et al, 2005).
  10. I was totally isolated as I could tell anyone how I was feeling. I was feeling depressed myself and having suicidal thoughts.  A meta-analysis (43 studies) found an average 10.4% of fathers depressed both pre- and post-natally, with the peak time for fathers’ depression being between three and six months after the birth (Paulson & Bazemore, 2010). 

There are many other factors as we know and how fatherhood pressures have changed in recent years with more stay at home dads and single dads parenting their children alone.

The National Childbirth Trust said More than 1 in 3 new fathers (38%)* are concerned about their mental health and concerns about their partner is another worry for new fathers. NCT found that almost three quarters (73%) of dads were worried about their partner’s mental health.

The World Health organisation doesn’t recommend screening of new dads for their mental health only mums when over 510,000 male suicide globally happens each years ( Movember) How many are Dads?

Join us on International Fathers Mental Health Day in June and our #Howareyoudad Campaign.

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