Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day, created to bring awareness about Canadian’s mental health and end the stigma.

In honour of today’s purpose, Dad Central is sharing research about fathers and mental health. As you’ll see, the needs are important and have critical implications for both children and mothers, as well as fathers.

What research tells us about fathers and mental health (full list of references at the end)

Post-partum depression – The facts & numbers

Fathers also struggle with post-partum depression and with grief from pregnancy loss, yet the needs of fathers with post-partum depression are often unacknowledged. Screening for post-partum depression in men is not a common practice.

  • 10.4% of fathers experience post-partum depression. That’s double the rate of depression in adult males
  • Mothers are more than four times as likely to suffer from post-partum depression if fathers experience it
  • Paternal depression doubles the risk of behavioural and emotional problems with children
  • The majority of PPD support is targeted mostly at mothers
  • Men are less likely to seek attention for mental health needs
  • Low income and low social support is a strong predictor of post-partum depression in fathers
  • A UBC study found that PPD is under screened and underreported for fathers

Because of these facts, here are some of the outcomes.

PPD in fathers impacts:

  • Their future mental health
  • Their relationships with their children
  • The behaviour of their children

And PPD in fathers leads to:

  • Increased inter-parental conflict
  • Increased negative effects on children’s mental health

Because men are less likely to seek attention for mental health needs, raising awareness and screening for post-partum depression (PPD) in fathers is crucial!

Pregnancy Loss

Men experience grief after the loss of a pregnancy much like women do, but there is less research on fathers. Most importantly, fathers are often not included in supports offered to the family. This often results in fathers feeling like they have to be the primary support for the mother’s grieving process without understanding how to access support for themselves. When this happens and fathers can’t access, or feel left out and ignored by medical staff, fathers feel more isolated and disenfranchised. A particularly poignant quote from one father in a study captures this notion:

“There was just no one there to….acknowledge that it happened to me as well.”

Depression

New fathers who live with their children are particularly at risk of depression during the first five years. Adjusting to the stressors of parenting can take a toll, and men may be more inclined to display outward signs (violence, problematic substance abuse, etc) as a result of these stressors. When that happens, these behaviours can have profoundly negative consequences for a family. In addition, children of fathers who struggle with depression are at significantly increased risk of mental health, behavior and social consequences.

This list is certainly not exhaustive, but it begins to show the importance of fathers’ mental health.

By supporting fathers in these areas, you increase their capacity to be positively involved in the lives of their children. The other important facts from the research:

Positive father involvement is important for children. It improves their social and emotional wellness, academic achievement, physical health and their adjustment to becoming parents themselves.

Reference List:

  • Garfield CF, Rutsohn J, Duncan G, Mcdade TW. A longitudinal study of paternal mental health during transition to fatherhood as young adults. Pediatrics. 2014 May; 133(5); 836-843.
  • Rözer J, Poortman A, Mollenhorst G. The timing of parenthood and its effect on social contact and support. 2017 June; 36(1); 1889-1916.
  • Fisher SD, Brock RL, O’Hara MW, Kopelman R, Stuart S. Longitudinal contribution of maternal and paternal depression to toddler behaviors: interparental conflict and later depression as mediators. Couple Family Psychol. 2015;4(2):61-73. DOI: 10.1037/cfp0000037
  • Koch S, De Pascalis L, Vivian F, Renner AM, Murray L, Arteche A. Effects of male postpartum depression on father-infant interaction: the mediating role of face processing. Infant Ment Health J. 2019 Feb;40(2): 263-76.
  • Nath S, Russell G, Ford T, Kuyken W, Psychogiou L. Postnatal paternal depressive symptoms associated with fathers’ subsequent parenting: findings from the Millennium Cohort Study. Br J Psychiatry. 2015 Dec;207(6):558-9. DOI: 10.1192/bjp.bp.114.148379
  • Glasser S, Lerner-Geva L. Focus on fathers: paternal depression in the perinatal period. Perspect Public Health. 2019 July;139(4):195-8. DOI: 10.1177/1757913918790597
  • Lee JY, Knauer HA, Lee SJ, MacEachern MP, Garfield CF. Father-inclusive perinatal parent education programs: a systematic review. Pediatrics. 2018 July;142(1): e20180437. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2018-0437
  • Paulson JF, Bazemore SD, Goodman JH, Leiferman JA. The course and interrelationship of maternal and paternal perinatal depression. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2016;19(4):655-63. DOI: 10.1007/s00737-016-0598-4
  • Barker B, Iles JE, Ramchandani PG. Fathers, fathering and child psychopathology. Curr Opin Psychol. 2017 June;15:87-92. DOI: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.02.015
  • Freitas CJ, Fox CA. Fathers matter: family therapy’s role in the treatment of paternal peripartum depression. Contemp Fam Ther. 2015 Dec;37(4):417-25. DOI: 10.1007/s10591-015-9347-5
  • Leung BMY, Letourneau NL, Giesbrecht GF, Ntanda H, Hart M. Predictors of postpartum depression in partnered mothers and fathers from a longitudinal cohort. Community Ment Health J. 2017 May;53(4):420-31. DOI: 10.1007/s10597-016-0060-0
  • Kumar SV, Oliffe JL, Kelly MT. Promoting postpartum mental health in fathers: recommendations for nurse practitioners. American J Mens Health. 2018;12(2):221-8. DOI: 10.1177/1557988317744712
  • Due C, Chiarolli S, Riggs DW. The impact of pregnancy loss on men’s health and wellbeing: a systematic review. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2017 Nov;17(1):380. DOI: 10.1186/s12884-017-1560-9
  • Story Chavez M, Handley V, Lucero Jones R, Eddy B, Poll V. Men’s experiences of miscarriage: a passive phenomenological analysis of online data. J Loss Trauma. 2019 Oct;24(7):664-77. DOI: 10.1080/23802359.2019.1611230
  • Bonnette S, Broom A. On grief, fathering and the male role in men’s accounts of stillbirth. J Sociol. 2012 Sept;48(3):248-65. DOI: 10.1177/1440783311413485
  • Obst KL, Due C. Australian men’s experiences of support following pregnancy loss: a qualitative study. Midwifery. 2019 Mar;70:1-6. DOI: 10.1016/j.midw.2018.11.013
  • Wagner NJ, Vaughn CT, Tuazon VE. Fathers’ lived experiences of miscarriage. Fam J Alex Va. 2018 April;26(2):193-99. DOI: 10.1177/1066480718770154
  • Miller EJ, Temple-Smith MJ, Bilardi JE. ‘There was just no-one there to acknowledge that it happened to me as well’: a qualitative study of male partner’s experience of miscarriage. PloS one. 2019;14(5):e0217395. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0217395
  • Fisher SD. Paternal mental health: why is it relevant? Am J Lifestyle Med. 2017 May;11(3):200-11. DOI: 10.1177/1559827616629895
  • Gentile S, Fusco ML. Untreated perinatal paternal depression: effects on offspring. Psychiatry Res. 2017;252:325-32. DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.02.064
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