Mental health problems in dads and partners

Whilst the rates of mental health problems in dads is not necessarily greater than at other times in a man’s life, their risk of stress and becoming distressed is increased in the months following becoming a dad.

After a few months of doing the dad thing, I found myself not feeling right. I was very irritable. I found myself grudgingly doing things that my daughter needed. It was bad but I attributed it to lack of sleep or something.

If these signs are not recognised and steps taken to reduce the levels of distress you maybe experiencing, this could develop into more serious mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.

My husband has post-natal depression. It’s easy to talk about it now but when he first told me five months ago that he thought he may need some help, it’s fair to say I was at a complete loss as to what to do or say.

If however, your partner is experiencing a mental health condition, then living with, and caring for a partner who may be struggling can take its toll.

Trying to provide emotional and practical support, whilst also holding down your work can increase the level of stress that you may experience. If this continues over time, this is likely to become more distressing and increase your own risk of developing postnatal depression. In fact men are fifty percent more likely to develop postnatal depression if their partners have this condition.

This is also likely to be the case for the other more severe mental health conditions like bipolar disorder and puerperal psychosis, which generally requires dads to take on a full-time role caring for their partner and family until their partner seeks treatments and recovers.

What to do when things get tough

There are always going to be moments when you reach pressure points. Remember that these will pass, and with sleep problems, in most instances things will soon return to normal. However, for some, this level of stress is ongoing and over time you may begin to feel that things are wearing you down, and you are finding it difficult to cope. In order to be aware and prepared for this, below are some strategies that may be helpful for you to get the timely support and help that you need.

1. Be aware of the signs

Be aware of the signs of stress, depression and anxiety. By recognising the symptoms early, you will be in a better position to get help early, rather than waiting until things have become out of control and/or you may begin to find it difficult to function.

2. Consider what’s impacting on you

Be aware of how you are feeling and what may have changed over time. It may also be useful to consider if there are any factors that may have contributed to you feeling like this and whether there is anything you can do right now to relieve the pressure a bit. This may include asking, or accepting offers for help from others with meals, housework or managing children. It may be helpful to let your employer know if you are not getting much sleep and if there is any way they may be able to support you at this time.

3. Talk about it

Talking it through sometimes can give you the opportunity to receive helpful advice from others who may have been there too. By not talking and bottling it up, you are not only increasing the pressure on yourself, but things may come out in the wrong way and may result in an argument. By talking about things you also give yourself the opportunity to seek advice and or support from others which may be helpful.

4. Seek help

When you feel that you can’t take much more or feel that the pressure is beginning to mount, talking to your GP in the first instance is a good place to start, as there are many ways to seek safe and effective support and treatment. Remember that these conditions can be treated or managed, and the faster you seek help the faster you can recover.

If you are experiencing depression and anxiety yourself, this can affect your ability to manage at work, support your partner and manage from day to day. So consider the impact that this may have on others. You don’t want to miss out on this time with your family, so seeking help early can help you to get back to yourself, be in a position to support others, and enjoy fatherhood.

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