Father's mental health

Posted by iChild, May 15, 2019 5:53 PM

Psychotherapist Noel McDermott www.noelmcdermott.net discusses the challenges of fatherhood and why we need to encourage dads to look after their mental health.

The focus has always been on mums in the pre and postnatal period, we are very good at supporting and understanding maternal mental health and the overall family wellbeing, but not so good at offering support to new fathers who also face big challenges. Dads also suffer from sleep deprivation, money worries and must adjust to the change in relationship with their loved one, it’s not just mums who face these changes!

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Noel says “Fathers need more support for perinatal and postpartum health, just as mums do and if your partner feels supported and emotionally healthy this can benefit the whole family. Depression can put their relationship with the baby’s mother at risk, it can also affect the relationship they have with their child”.

It’s very important for the sake of all fathers and families to focus more on the whole family and spend time thinking about how your partner may be dealing with things. Men adopt an “I’m fine” attitude so things get worse, with mental health just getting worse can have catastrophic consequences. People who are mentally ill don’t know they are mentally ill. It is rare to be able to understand when you are depressed and even harder to recognise this is a mental health condition.

Symptoms to look out for - early warning signs of mental health problems in fathers

- Isolation - sudden shifts from being loving to withdrawn is indicative of mental health issues
- Substance misuse such as drinking too much (this is very much part of the male culture)
- Anger management issues and intimate partner violence – it is possible to express anger and violence towards a loved one due to perinatal depression
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Withdrawal from family life, work and social situations
- Change in sleeping patterns

It tends to be the case that boys are brought up in a harsher environment than girls; they are shouted at more when growing up and are told boys don’t cry. We associate certain behaviours to boys and girls and these messages are still so strong in adulthood. However, boys are not physiologically any different to girls, we are essentially made up of the same thing.

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Critical changes and challenges for a man when he becomes a dad

- Becoming a dad is a major developmental change - a few months before childbirth, a man’s testosterone levels lower and other hormones increase, this is essentially rewiring a man's brain to prepare him for impending fatherhood.
- A man's brain will change in response to hormonal changes in the first year of a child's life, these changes will equip him with the skills to care for a baby such as a greater responsiveness to others, these shifts also increase a man's chances of experiencing clinical depression or mood disorders. The peak time for postnatal depression in men is 3-6 months after the birth.

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The best way to improve men’s health is through their wives or partners!

It’s very simple, get the woman involved and the male will follow! We have a huge amount of power over those that love us, and this can be used positively to improve your partners mental health and wellbeing. Love isn’t just a nice idea in a book, it’s what happens neuro-chemically between people and this changes our hormones and relationships. In our culture women are the pinnacle of pregnancy and childbirth is the most dangerous thing a woman will do; however, men can also be hugely affected by these emotional processes, this isn’t just about men wanting attention, it can be a very serious issue. Use those love bonds to help your partner deal with his feelings of anxiety and depression.

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Physical Activity & Men – Get Your Man Playing Sports!

Physical health and mental health are intimately connected, physical health benefits include the production of reward chemicals in the body. The brain creates a cocktail of reward chemicals which will improve your mood. Sports outside are particularly rewarding, not only is the fresh air good for you, but nature has an impact of soothing us. Team sports can help with bonding socially and the positive approval achieved when winning together is great for morale and self-esteem.

So how can we help men through this process?

For many men asking for help with mental health is a challenge that often gets left by the wayside. They struggle to talk about their personal experiences and emotions and do not cope with mental health concerns very well, in fact they tend to do all the wrong things choosing to ignore it and refusing to talk about the problem. When you are aware there is an issue, it is important not to wait and to get help.

- Be aware of the signs and symptoms
- Inform and educate people that it is okay for men to have these reactions, it is a normal process for anyone experiencing changes in their life
- Get a diagnosis for what is going on and treatment if needed.

 Mental Health Help Available in the UK

In the UK we have very good national services available. See your GP - your doctor can refer you to local support services and talking treatments. There are also specialist organisations that could offer help such as PANDA organisation. Alternatively, your partner may benefit from a 1 on 1 consultation with a professional in this field to discuss your concerns and work towards creating a care program. 

By P Allardyce 07976 724 390  81

By Psychotherapist Noel McDermott www.noelmcdermott.net

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