Fatherhood & Mental Health

Fatherhood & Mental Health

On the heels of Father’s Day, it is worth thinking about fatherhood and mental health.  Becoming a parent can be a scary prospect for a man. While it is commonly acknowledged that women may experience postpartum depression, research states that 10% of new dad’s also experience postpartum depression and 25% of men experience depression within the first year of having a child (Postpartum, 2017; Schaeffer).

Believe it or not, in the month leading up to the childbirth, the father’s testosterone levels decrease and prolactin, vasopressin, and other hormones continue to increase (Schaeffer). Scientists speculate that this is due to a mixture of stress and emotions. As a result, a man becomes more prepared to be a father because he has an increase in sensitivity to: crying, to creating an emotional bond, and to catering to other’s needs. The increase in sensitivity also makes a father more prone to clinical depression and mood disorders (Schaeffer).

It is important to pay attention to dads’ mental health because it can impact the well-being of the entire household.  There is still a great deal of stigma surrounding men’s mental health. In America, traditionally, men are tasked with providing stability and anchoring the family. Culturally, they are often less likely to share or express their feelings.  Nevertheless, they face many emotional challenges as a parent.  Sadly, many men feel that mental health problems are a sign of weakness and often do not seek help.  Consequently, there are likely a lower number of reported cases of postpartum depression for men.

It is proven that fathers who are positively involved in their family’s lives, better their children’s lives, their spouse’s life, and their own well-being (Schaeffer). Keeping this in mind, here are some tips for a father to live a happier life:

  1. Set aside time for yourself. It’s important to schedule a little “you time” to decompress. Do things that make you happy: hobbies, reading, seeing friends.
  2. Stop caring so much about what others think of you.
  3. Remember that there is no such thing as perfect – so let the little things go!
  4. Communicate. Reach out to your friends and family and be honest about your emotions. Practicing this is great for yourself and teaches your kids good coping skills.
  5. Live a healthy life style by eating healthy and exercising regularly. It’s proven that running and lifting weights can be beneficial for your mental health (Menshealth, 2017).
  6. Laugh! Laughing is proven to boost your mental health and well-being.

International Father’s Mental Health Day. (2017). Retrieved June 22, 2017, from http://www.postpartum.net/get-help/resources-for-fathers/ifmhd/

Schaeffer, C., PhD. (n.d.). The Mental Health of Dads Needs Attention. Retrieved June 22, 2017, from https://www.seleni.org/advice-support/article/its-time-to-support-fathers-mental-health

6 ways to improve your mental health. (2016, May 17). Retrieved June 22, 2017, from http://www.menshealth.co.uk/healthy/6-ways-to-improve-your-mental-health