It’s Shocking How Little We Talk About Dads And Depression

shutterstock_164978852__1397580672_142.196.167.223I think we’re all very familiar with the idea that moms experience varying levels of depression after they give birth. Why don’t we hear more about what dads go through? It’s a serious question and one that I’m kind of shocked I’ve never spent too much time thinking about.

I read an article in USA Today titled, Depression Risks Increase For Young Dads. Apparently, young dads have a very high risk of experiencing depression in the first five years after their children are born, and the effects this depression can have on childrearing are pretty serious:

Symptoms of depression increased on average by 68% over the first five years of fatherhood for men who were around 25 years old when they became fathers and lived with their children, according to the study published online today in the journal Pediatrics.

Craig Garfield, an associate professor in pediatrics and medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of the study say, “Fathers have not been on the radar screen until recently. Now we know that … right around the time of the birth is an important time to try and capture and screen those dads.”

Garfield’s previous research has shown depressed dads will use more corporal punishment, read less and interact less with their children, and are more likely to be stressed and neglect their children. Compared with the children of non-depressed dads, these children are at risk for having poor language and reading development and more behavior problems and conduct disorders.

I always make it a point to reach out to my girlfriend’s after they give birth. I know what a hard time I had after the birth of my first child, and I try to be available just to let them know it was hard for me and ask them if they are doing okay or if there is anything they need to talk about. I can honestly say I have never thought to do this with any of my male friends who have had kids – and I can’t believe it never crossed my mind.

It’s helpful to see research that reminds us that dads have a hard time adjusting, too. There is a huge range of postpartum depression – not all of it has to do with plummeting hormones or a medical diagnosis of PPD. If we are going to finally start acknowledging that a father’s role is just as important as a mother’s, we need to start realizing that the stress of parenting applies to both people, as well.

(photo: KonstantinChristian/ Shutterstock)

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  • Katherine Handcock

    I think it’s more than just dads – we don’t like to talk about men and depression, period. Or men with anxiety disorders, OCD, any kind of psychiatric issue — except, perhaps, when it comes to expressions or anger. This is one of those weird places where the “emotional” stereotype kind of helps women out, because they feel freer to express their concerns.

    My husband has a unique perspective on this as a minister, since he regularly counsels people who have experienced tragedy of many kinds. He is always shocked at how few men will even admit that they might be feeling sad after a death — and how often he hears men tell him that they tried to talk about it, but got told to suck it up/be a man. Many people still view mental illness as weakness, and that attitude gets magnified for men because weakness = unmasculine in many people’s eyes.

    • Jezebeelzebub


    • Kay_Sue

      My dad really faced this as he has dealt with his PTSD. I agree so much.

    • Katherine Handcock

      @kay_sue:disqus, my husband has also counseled people with PTSD short-term (since he’s a minister, not a counselor, he can’t provide ongoing care, just crisis support), so I know from him just how hard dealing with it can be. I hope that your dad has gotten the help that he needs.

  • Robotic Socks

    Hopefully talks about it

    A good time to talk about it is during the lull after the NBA Finals and beginning of Football Preseason. There’s only baseball during that time, which is a very very depressing time for all men


    • Valerie

      And some women. I hate the Super Bowl. No football for 6 months after that. :-(

  • Alicia Kiner

    It’s definitely not something I’ve ever thought about, and while their bodies don’t go through what ours do, their lives do. And not only do they have the baby depending on them, but they have us, especially those first few weeks. Everyone talks about how moms need to take a little me time, do things for ourselves, etc, but you don’t hear people saying the same about men. Maybe men are better about putting themselves first, or maybe it’s that “man up and deal” mentality.

    • Alex Lee

      25 Things Depressed Dads Self-Medicate With:

      Deep-fried foods
      Women in skimpy outfits
      Action movies
      Athletic events
      High-performance engines
      Tractor pulls
      The Three Stooges
      Full-frontal nudity
      Cold beer
      Monty Python
      Mel Brooks
      Hardware stores
      Construction equipment
      Tactical gear
      Fishing for crustaceans in the Arctic Circle
      B̶r̶o̶a̶d̶w̶a̶y̶ ̶S̶h̶o̶w̶t̶u̶n̶e̶s̶ Mixed-Martial Arts
      Male enhancement
      Red convertibles
      Video games
      Hot sauce

  • K.

    I’m glad to be parenting in a generation in which dads seem to be more hands-on. My husband seems to get a lot of support from other dads–I never saw the kind of camaraderie between my own dad and his buddies that I see with my husband and his friends and fellow dads.

  • It definitely makes sense. Men are typically the breadwinner and even in dual income families the mom often has an unpaid maternity leave, so the financial burden falls on their shoulders. And since younger men (people in general) tend to earn less money, they’d be even more stressed than older men earning more. Combine that with wanting to be an involved parent when they’re at home but not understanding why the baby just won’t stop crying, and I totally understand how those feelings of being so stressed and overwhelmed can lead to depression.

  • MerlePerle

    When we first got knocked up I was still in school and my boyfriend at the time didn’t make much money. But I don’t think he realized how little it actually was, because he got by fine on his own. Now he had to take care of a two more people with that kind of money and it just wasn’t enough. So he definitely had a big burden on his shoulder, trying to take care of his family financially. Now he opened up his own business and we’re doing fine, but he still very much feels the pressure of providing nice things. It doesnn’t surprise me, that the sudden kind of a sole provider would lead men into depression.

  • Melastik Bintang

    thanx for sharing this article….

  • JaneDoe27

    We need to talk about this in all stages of parenting, not just the first few years. I know that my boyfriend suffers terribly from depression and anxiety that is centered around his non-custodial parenting situation. He lives 3 hours away from his kids and feels that he is disconnected from them, particularly now that they are teens. Visiting them is expensive and his ex-wife can make it very difficult, with last minute changes in plans, refusal to let them take the train alone to visit and general hostility. He almost never talks about how this makes him feel (“I’m a man, I need to just suck it up and be strong.” or “Oh well, at least I can provide for them financially”). But he is very hurt and sad.

  • Lackadaisical

    You are right, depression can hit hard for new fathers and we do seem to expect it less and so support it less. Both my husband and one of his brothers are prone to depression and all the stress, pressure and expectations of new babies seem to send them spiralling further into depression. With my brother in law when he has a baby he has been known to disappear only to resurface a few days later. That is rough for his poor partner, who also had a small baby to care for along with worry for the missing dad, but it comes from a complete inability to process his emotions and depression in the wake of a brand new child. I am not sure I could put up with that extreme of behaviour but I do sympathise with the horrible state he is in emotionally. My own husband also finds that certain aspects of parenthood are trigger points for his own depression, for example Christmas mayhem / expectations and the kids getting ill or being bullied.

  • Kat

    When we had our son, everyone almost always asked how we were both doing. I had a c-section, & I couldn’t always get out of bed, or off the couch or walk. So my fiance helped a LOT. I nursed his whole first 2 weeks (had an MRI after because of pain), & because it was so hard to get out of bed for me, he did it, he’d hand him to me, I’d feed him, he’d put him back. I felt bad, but I was so uncomfortable, I sleep like I did in the hospital- propped up on pillows- for about a month, month & a half. The stress for both of us was so hard, & somehow we got through it really well. I always make sure he’s not too stressed out, because I don’t want him to come even close to how my dad was. While my dad already had depression, I know depression can come any time. & I want him to be here, not feeling like there’s an easy way out. There are way too many depressed people that need to start opening up & talking, so they can get help, with or without medicine. Talking about problems & coming up with solutions can be very helpful. Men & women, without being “weak”…

  • dwinez

    Women on the other hand, mostly get depressed due to internal body factors such as hormonal changes that directly affect the part of the brain in charge of emotions. Therefore,the rate of depression in women is often higher than men. To notice depressed women is most of the time seen to be an easy task since they tend to be moody especially when pregnant, over weight as a result of eating more due to depression, withdrawn most of the time, always sad, uncertain about themselves and
    so on.
    Lowering the Risk of Depression by Drinking Red wine

  • dwinez

    Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has grown to be a common and well respected method of managing sufferers with depression. It can be termed as the talking therapy. The objective is to solve difficulties surrounding emotions, anxiety, stress and depression in a step-by-step, often goal based, systematic technique. As with anti-depressant drugs there exists much scientific evidence to support the assertions that CBT is effective in taking care of depression along with issues for example mood swings, anxiety, personality disorders and drug abuse. CBT is used in individual therapy classes for a prescribed period of time as well as in group settings. The methods utilized in CBT can easily be adapted for self-help programs.

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