By Mark Williams
Doing my own Tedx Talk has always been on my “bucket list” as a speaker because it’s a great platform to raise awareness about the importance of new fathers’ mental health. As we all know, fatherhood has changed over the past few years, with an increase in more single and stay-at-home fathers than ever before and mothers working more hours than many dads.
What is really alarming is the research we’ve found indicating that fathers are 47 times more likely to be at risk of suicide during the perinatal period (meaning the period between conception and a year or so postpartum) than any other time during a man’s life. If he’s not getting the right kind of support, the impact can be detrimental to the whole family as well as the development of the child. I experienced really terrible postnatal depression and anxiety, and even though I was abusing substances and felt suicidal during that time, thankfully I was able to pull through it.
Unfortunately, fathers are not screened for their mental health like mothers. Research indicates that mothers who have a past history of anxiety, depression and trauma prior to becoming a parent, in addition, to the lack of sleep, can also impact a father’s transition to parenthood and cause anxiety and depression for fathers too.
The World Health Organization does not recommend screening of new dads, but instead focuses on mother’s mental health. This organization needs to look at the reports and research coming out now, and we need to change this in order to lower the 600,000 male suicides happening globally.
Movember, in 2019, reported one in five British father’s felt totally isolated during the first year of fatherhood and the National Childbirth Trust in 2015 said that 38% of dads struggled with their mental health and 73% were worried about their partners mental health.
Father’s witnessing a traumatic birth can be heavily affected by PTSD; an anxiety disorder related to either witnessing or experiencing a life threatening event. It can be traumatic for fathers to witness their loved one going through a traumatic birth.
I believe that supporting all parents for their mental health will lead to better outcomes, because the number of relationships that sadly end through such pressures is high and this can be prevented.
I know fathers do go into other services after the postnatal period and normally get help only when they feel they are at a crisis point. Many new fathers like me, are never diagnosed with depression or Postnatal PTSD, as screenings are rarely used. However, things are changing for the better.
Research indicates that 50% of dads suffering from depression, will have partner with postnatal depression. Meta-analysis found, on average, 10.4% of fathers were depressed both pre- and post-natally, with the peak time for paternal depression being between 3-6 months after the birth.
For this reason, I’ve been using the #howareyoudad and #dadsMHday tags to bring awareness to the mental health issues along with the solutions for those concerns!
I hope my TEDx talk will give people hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that the bad parts of our lives can be used to give us purpose in life.
So why is this important? Why is my own mental health history and present a key part of this picture? Supporting all parents – meaning moms AND dads – for their mental health during the antenatal and postnatal period has far better outcomes for the whole family and the development of the child. I think this is important enough, what do you think?