Speaking up for depressed Dads


So unless you’ve been hiking the Himalayas this past week, you’re aware that a study about dads with prenatal and postnatal depression and it’s correlation to maternal depression was released. Published today, actually in JAMA.

Twitter’s been aflitter with this study. Tons of media outlets are jumping on the story. Almost every Google Alert I’ve received this week has had a ton of links for variation after variation on this new study involving dads and depression.

And then…

And then.

I got an email this morning. It included several tweets doubting the possibility of men having depression. I wanted to cry.

People on Twitter were saying awful, awful, awful things. Did I mention the awful things? AWFUL.

Here are a few of the ones I’m comfortable with posting. Even though they make me cringe. And want to grab every single Tweeter and have a little Homer Simpson/Bart Simpson moment with them.

“Post Partum Depression for dad’s? Really? Already a name for that. Called “Llife got tougher. Deal.” Judges also would accept, “Parenthood.”

“CNN: “Dads get post-partum depression too.” Oh, come on. It’s called sleep- and sex-deprivation.”

“I’m sorry. I just cant see a man suffering from postpartum depression. No one is cutting his man hole & sewing it up to bring out a baby”

“A man suffering from postpartum depression is a girly man.”

“Lol @ “postpartum depression can strike new dads”. Yeah, no. Until they have to have an episiotomy…no”

Wow.

Mmmmmmk.

Let’s see here.

You want to know WHY it’s so important that we know this about men and depression after they become expectant or new fathers? Because men, when depressed are:

Less likely to seek help

More likely to complete suicide

More likely to take their depression/rage out on their families

Depressed men will exhibit the same symptoms as women to a certain extent but there are some differences. Men may begin to abuse alcohol or other substances, dive into work, put up a wall with friends and make up excuses to avoid his family.

I’ve lived with a depressed dad. I’ve suffered the consequences of a depressed dad’s attempts at self-medicating his moods away. It is not pretty people, it is not pretty. It hurts. It opens long-healed wounds if left untreated. Turns things upside down and inside out. Depression destroys lives. It rips out hearts, infects every aspect of your life. It’s not much different than cancer in that sense… left to it’s own it runs rampant and has the potential to kill you. Depression is DEADLY. The only difference between cancer and Depression is that Depression can kill others even if they’re not infected. Doesn’t that make Depression more deadly and dangerous? I certainly think so.

Owning up to a depression bigger than you, a monster that’s been hard at work destroying your life takes a helluva lot of courage. It takes guts to step out from behind the facade of normalcy to admit things are not okay. It takes a helluva lot of guts to completely break down and cry in front of other people. It takes courage to then get up the next morning and the next and the next with the goal of rebuilding yourself. It takes a REAL MAN to own up to depression and seek help.

I applaud the Dads who are owning up to being depressed during their partner’s pregnancies and as they navigate life as a new father. Thank you, Joel Schwartzburg. Thank you Dr. Will Courtenay for providing a safe place for Dads to come to and find help.

Thank you.

Men often hide their depression during the pregnancy of their partner or after the child’s birth because they feel they’re expected to be strong. Even though I begged my husband to tell me he was struggling too after the birth of our second daughter, he repeatedly told me he was fine. All I wanted to hear was that I wasn’t alone. Instead he kept it inside as he began to abuse marijuana on top of the anti-depressants he had been prescribed. In fact, I just discovered last night that he didn’t even want to hold her while she was in the NICU. Our daughter is now four years old.

Depression can happen to anyone, at anytime, with no warning of onset.

If any of the above people were to ever experience a mental illness, I would hope they would not encounter comments like the ones they just made. Instead, I would hope they would find compassion, knowledgeable resources, and be able to surround themselves with people able to empower them as they journey toward recovery.

No one deserves to be kicked when they’re down. No one deserves to be doubted when they dare to speak up. No one deserves such harsh words.

Would you tell a male cancer patient they’re a girly man for getting breast cancer? Cuz men have breasts too and yes, they get breast cancer.

Would you tell a man to tough out a heart attack? To man up and fight the pain? Skip the nitro and the aspirin – you’ll be fine. It’s just tough right now.

Would you tell a man who just broke his leg that he’s not justified in complaining just because his break isn’t the worst break on the planet?

Nobody would dare say those things to such patients.

Then pray tell, why, why do you feel comfortable saying them about mental health patients? Please tell me because I truly do not understand.

And to the ladies who commented about surgery and birth – there are plenty of women who have given birth naturally or vaginally without episiotomies and gone on to experience postpartum depression.  But I suppose that’s not allowed either because clearly surgery and episiotomies are pre-requisites for depression after childbirth.

I leave you with something my parents raised me to believe.

If you can’t say something nice……

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One thought on “Speaking up for depressed Dads

  1. How frustrating! I think that one reason people are skeptical about male PPD is the belief that PPD is so much based on hormonal upheaval that women have after childbirth. I think that is definitely part of PPD… but not all of it. Parenthood brings so many changes that, even without traumatic birth circumstances or hormonal upheaval, depression can be just from the changes parenthood brings (including sleep deprivation and all the changes babies bring to marriage!). And, well, yes, I think there are doctors who would say things like you mentioned to patients. I’ve unfortunately been around my share of OB/GYN’s that think any physical or mental discomfort in female patients must be in their head. Ugh. Sometimes I think men have it tougher than women… in difficulties I’ve had I could find support online even if not among real life friends. Men tend to not even reach out to each other through that medium.

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