Anxiety and depression among new dads is not uncommon, according to new research which showed thousands of men experiencing anxiety and often depression, as they enter fatherhood.
"Among many cultures in this region, showing emotion or exhibiting feelings of anxiety or despair is still regarded as a sign of weakness by many men, who feel the family's needs should come above their own," said Maartje Suijskens, psychologist at the newly-opened Priory Wellbeing Centre in Dubai.
"As a result, they refuse to recognise when they may need help, which can only have negative consequences," she said. "New fathers can become overwhelmed by their additional responsibilities and the fundamental change in family dynamics, which often includes a reduced family income, but their own emotional support is regarded as secondary. Yet, as with women, men can also be vulnerable to depression during this new, sleep-deprived chapter in their lives."
The Priory Wellbeing Centre, which opened in April this year and is part of The Priory Group that provides behavioural care in the UK, is calling for greater recognition of the emotional issues faced by new dads in the region.
In the run-up to International Men's Day (November 19), Priory's research found that around one in 10 men say they have negative thoughts after having children, and more than one in three (39 per cent) experienced some anxieties.
A recent small study done by the group among 1,002 parents of under 18s, of whom 452 were men, showed that one in 15 men believed they were actually suffering from paternal postnatal depression (PPND), although only two per cent were officially diagnosed.
Two in five men (42 per cent) who experienced depression or anxieties did not seek help, saying they were too embarrassed and "thought they should be happy". Nearly 70 per cent of men felt there was "still a stigma" around it, saying society might view those who suffered from PPND as 'inadequate' parents. Nearly half of men and women (47 per cent) said there was not enough support for new fathers facing difficulties adjusting to parenthood, and nearly 80 per cent of men and women said fathers were "forgotten" in discussions about postnatal depression. According to researchers, PPND affects around one in 10 fathers, and its effects can be as devastating as those suffered by women.
Maartje said she was calling for fuller recognition of PPND and a greater awareness of the symptoms among both new dads and the medical profession in the UAE.
"This will encourage men to openly accept and seek help if they are feeling the strain of coping with the birth of a new child," she said.
"PPND is a complex and challenging disorder and its effects can be far-reaching. It can have a serious effect on parent-infant interaction and bonding during the first year of the child's life, and can lead to the child developing emotional, behavioural, cognitive and interpersonal problems in later life," she added.
It is vital that doctors and psychologists work together to ensure new parents leave the hospital better informed about the emotional impact of having a new baby, and the support that is available to them, she said.
"Our research suggests that the number of fathers who experience anxiety and depression is greatly underestimated. New fathers might be aware of the fact they are not feeling well, but they will not link it to possible post-natal depression. Hopefully by raising awareness, we can encourage this situation to change." Studies have shown that new fathers are also more likely to suffer from delayed depression than mothers, commonly three to six months after their baby is born, and often when the mother has recovered from delivery and is going back to work. "A number of factors can contribute to depression - worries about new responsibilities, a loss of freedom, developing a bond with your baby, money worries and if your wife has PND, you might feel more prone to depression too."
Maartje also advocated an open and supportive relationship bet-ween partners.
"Becoming a parent is a life-changing experience and so will naturally have its challenges.
"After the baby is born, it's important that both parents communicate with each other, as well as with family and friends, and share any concerns. The worst thing new parents can do is to bottle up their emotions and hope they will go away. You're more likely to get a clearer perspective and the support you need to feel better if you talk to a professional."
The Priory Welbeing Centre in Dubai's Healthcare City organises interactive group sessions for new dads who need support and guidance with the transition into fatherhood. For more information, please visit www.priorygroup.ae
If you have serious depression you may...
>Feel exhausted and anxious
>Be obsessed with finances
>Begin to withdraw from your family
>Be irritable or intolerant
Findings of The Priory Group survey
>Poll reveals 39 per cent of men experience 'some anxieties' after having children
>One in 10 men say they have 'negative thoughts', while one in 15 said they were suffering from Paternal Post Natal Depression
>Two in five men (42 per cent) who experienced depression or anxieties did not seek help, saying they were too embarrassed
>Nearly 70% of men felt there was 'still a stigma' around PND, saying society might view those who suffered from it as 'inadequate' parents
>Nearly 47% said there was not enough support for new fathers experiencing difficulties adjusting to parenthood
>Nearly 80% of men and women said fathers were simply 'forgotten' in discussions about PND
KT Nano Edit
Men, often, are at the receiving end as many societies and cultures have a parochial attitude towards their mental health. Societies profess that 'girls cry, boys don't'. Issues of mental health and well-being plague both men and women at various stages of life, and are certainly not restricted to pre- or postpartum events. It's about time we let men discuss their state of mind openly.
Reporting by Asma Ali Zain
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