Supporting new fathers

Jasmin Kaur Gill responds to the article by Viren Swami.

Having read Viren Swami’s article ‘Dads get sad, too’ in the May issue I felt inclined to add my own observations to support Swami’s heartfelt experience of paternal postnatal depression experienced when his own son was born. Bringing awareness of postnatal depression experienced by fathers to the forefront of research and clinical expertise is vital to understanding adult male mental health.

I work primarily in adult male inpatient settings and the number of service users who are experiencing symptoms of depression following the birth of their children have, in my opinion, increased. Whether knowledge of fathers experiencing postnatal depression has increased, or the sheer number of cases has risen is not clear. What is apparent is that like Swami, these males are not given much acknowledgement or information.

Masculine stereotypes that males should be providers and happy after their child’s birth often leads to self-help amongst men struggling to adjust post-birth, for example through gambling, smoking, drinking and drug-taking. John Condon, Philip Boyce and Carolyn Corkindale’s 2004 ‘first-time fathers’ study found that fathers experiencing depression post-birth of their children were more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviours. As Swami suggested, these risk-taking fathers may be avoiding seeking help, and taking risks in a bid to manage how they are feeling. Behaviours such as taking illegal highs or alcoholism can be maladaptive, leading to a father’s isolation from his new family.

Too often I see males in inpatient settings not being supported in the right way. Usually these patients are given game activities to engage in and medication but there is a lack of psychological input addressing the factors centred on their postnatal depression. Support in this way can benefit new fathers who have been admitted to inpatient facilities, reducing the amount of time they are isolated from their new families. I support Swami in arguing for greater attention to the support required for fathers who experience postnatal depression, and argue for action to be taken to support new fathers in our services.

Jasmin Kaur Gill
Assistant Psychologist, Leicester

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