Becoming a parent is one of the biggest changes that both men and women can go through, yet there is still very little understood about how it impacts on mental health, and how many people will experience a mental health problem. Men are often left out of the equation when speaking of post-adoption depression (PADS) or post-partum depression but modern fathers are put under different strains than they were in the past. It is no longer good enough to just be the bread-winner. They have to be engaged and involved, which is added strain for them.
Studies are suggesting that one in 10 new fathers may have the blues. New fathers are just as susceptible to post-partum depression as new mothers but it seems to occurs in men later than it does in women. Lack of sleep and new responsibilities and/or supporting a wife with depression can often be triggers. Depression in new fathers seems to occur after three to six months and is more likely to occur if their partner is experiencing depression.
There is a tendency to overuse labels but treatment for clinical depression is essential and more efforts should be made to improve screening and referral of at risk fathers. Depression is nothing to be ashamed of and may require treatment. Men may see depression as a weakness and not want to or find it necessary to seek help but mounting evidence suggests that early paternal depression may have substantial emotional, behavioral and developmental effects on children.
- The baby blues, is a temporary “down” period. Tearfulness, fatigue, irritability, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, and other signs of the baby blues usually begin one to two days after birth and may last up to three weeks.
- Postpartum depression is a mood disorder characterized by negative thinking patterns and feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and despondency. Unlike the temporary baby blues, postpartum depression deepens. The new parent may feel like they have fallen into a dark hole, have obsessive thoughts, and find themselves unable to shake troublesome worries.
- Post-adoption depression is not yet a distinct illness recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. PADS can range from a full-blown episode of severe depression that requires hospitalization or just a simple case of the blues that lasts a month or two. The few scientific studies of PADS indicate that over half of adoptive parents experience it.