New fathers’ mental health needs to be taken seriously

New research finds dads still suffering under the expectation to ‘man up’


Men are still struggling with the pressure to be stoic and strong when they become dads according to new research.

New fathers reported a range of problems including anxiety, depression and even specific mental health conditions like OCD in research carried out by the University of Surrey.

Yet many failed to report their conditions for fear they were not meeting masculine expectations.

Some reported feeling guilty for feeling as they did when they perceived their partners struggling with bigger problems.

Some were supporting mothers with post-natal depression, while others felt they had struggled to adjust to new responsibilities and roles amid social isolation, their baby’s constant crying or their own sleep deprivation.

Those with access to fathers’ support groups reported positive experiences; however, most fathers were not well-integrated within communities of other new parents.

The new findings coincide with Father’s Mental Health Day, which comes the immediately after Father’s Day.

Around 10% of new fathers are believed to experience depression. Most are expected to return to work after a maximum of two weeks paternity leave.

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Dr Ranjana Das carried out the research alongside colleague Dr Paul Hodkinson. He said: “New fathers grappling with mental health difficulties reported a range of contributing circumstances, but our interviews identified societal pressures on fathers to be stoic, strong and providers of support for their partners as an underlying and exacerbating factor in most cases.

New fathers also reported a lack of prior knowledge or information about the possibility of mental health challenges.

“Fathers often interpret their struggles as a personal failure as a man and father, and refuse to regard their own problems as legitimate compared to their partner’s. This leads to reluctance in reaching out or seeking advice, further compounding any issues and making isolation a significant problem.”

The researchers found  many men turn to social media for support and to express themselves. They welcomed this but cautioned men need further specific support.

The findings have been submitted to the parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee. They recommend perinatal mental health policies should directly target new fathers – as well as new mothers and they call for men to be given more information about the mental health challenges that can accompany parenthood and where to get support.

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