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Fathers' mental health

Paternal Mental Health

Many people are aware that mothers can experience mental health struggles during pregnancy, birth and the period of early parenthood, fathers can sometimes be overlooked. Research shows that 1 in 10 men that we know about experience depression in the perinatal period. The actual number of men affected might not be captured within these statistics due to underreporting.

The perinatal period refers to pregnancy, birth and the 12 months that follow birth. During this time there are many changes that can place both parents at risk of developing mental health difficulties, such as anxiety or depression. The burden of perceived stereotypes of masculinity and fatherhood can make it difficult for men to speak out about their mental health and many suffer in silence. Research has shown that many fathers experience psychological distress in the perinatal period, but they are more likely to question the legitimacy of their concerns or experiences. They may be less likely to speak out about their own struggles due to the perception that this might detract from the other parent’s or mother’s needs.

Risk factors

Risk factors for paternal depression and anxiety include:

·        Having a partner who is experiencing perinatal depression or anxiety.

·        A birth experience that both parents found traumatic.

·        Relationship difficulties

·        Low self-esteem or low perceived competence as a parent

·        Previous history of mental health problems such as anxiety or depression

·        Having an unsettled baby

·        Having a baby with additional needs

·        Financial worries

·        Sleep deprivation

Impact in the home

Paternal mental health can impact the family home in the same way that maternal mental health difficulties can. Research has shown that postnatal depression in fathers can affect their relationship with the child’s mother and the relationship they have with their child. This is due to the symptoms of depression which often involve disengagement, irritability and becoming withdrawn. They may engage less with their children or behave differently towards them because of depression. Paternal depression is also associated with development delays and behavioural, emotional and social problems in children. This association is particularly relevant when there has been antenatal as well as postnatal depression, when both parents have mental health difficulties, or when the symptoms are very severe.

How therapy can help

The good news is that paternal mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression are highly treatable in the same way that they are in mothers. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment option for men experiencing paternal mental health difficulties. CBT therapy can help develop coping skills and increase insight into what is causing and maintaining mental health difficulties including identifying unhelpful thinking styles, or behaviours. CBT therapy can support people to develop skills to challenge negative thoughts, to cope with difficult emotions and develop healthier behavioural strategies that are beneficial not only for them as an individual but also benefits their family. Couples therapy can also be particularly useful to address the impact on family relationships, and improve communication and understanding between partners.

If you feel that CBT could help you in your life, then please get in touch. We can work with you to develop a tailored and comprehensive treatment package that can help you achieve your goals.


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