Like many men who experience pre- and postnatal depression, not once did Howard admit that there was something wrong. "I thought that since these feelings came over me quickly, that they would disappear just the same. It was when I began to lose all interest in Emma, even after she was born, that I realized I needed to open up and get help."
Lack of paternal bonding or involvement with the newborn are very common signs of postnatal depression in men," explains Deborah Rich, PhD, licensed psychologist and coordinator of Pregnancy and Newborn Loss Services at Fairview Health Services, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
A study published in the June 25, 2005, edition of the British medical journal The Lancet revealed that children whose fathers experienced postnatal depression face increased risks of behavioral and emotional problems in early life. Researchers from Bristol and Oxford University analyzed medical records on 8,430 fathers and found that eight weeks after the birth of their children, 3.6 percent (303) appeared to be suffering from depression, with reported symptoms including anxiety, mood swings, irritability, and feelings of hopelessness.
Although many in the medical community have differing opinions about the revelations of this study, one thing is perfectly clear—healthcare specialists around the world should be on the lookout for signs of depression in fathers, as well as mothers, and should offer treatment when necessary.
So, what can friends and family do for men who appear to be struggling with pre- or postnatal depression? Through love, support, and patience, families should be sure to let their struggling dad know that he may need help managing his feelings. If symptoms are apparent, families should encourage treatment. There is "no biological trigger that signals postnatal depression in men unlike postpartum depression in women," explains Dr. Rich, who also warns that "as soon as depression becomes evident, it is highly important that the person seek professional attention quickly."
For men who experience depression, one of the first steps in seeking treatment should be a preliminary physical examination by a primary care physician. The doctor will usually inquire about family history, when symptoms of depression began, and any new or increasing dependence on drugs or alcohol.