While improvements have been made, I think mental health is still a very under-covered topic regarding one’s overall well-being, particularly among men. We’re often told to “man up,” or “walk it off,” etc., but in the long run, that leads to more issues.
One area in mental health for men that can also go under-covered is postpartum depression. PPD as its known is often covered for women, and understandably so, but it’s essential to know that PPD can rear its head in men too.
New research shows that men also face severe mood changes in the period surrounding their child’s birth, but the condition often gets overlooked. Researchers from Deakin University in Australia went through Reddit posts. They discovered many dads’ posts in the period surrounding the birth of their child can be a warning sign for depression.
Via an article from India TV, one in five dads experience anxiety in the perinatal period – the time before and after their child’s birth. One in ten also experiences depression. Unfortunately, support for fathers’ mental health in the perinatal period is limited, according to the study published in JMIR Pediatrics and Parenting.
“It’s a huge public health problem that’s not being addressed,” said Dr. Sam Teague, who was until recently a postdoctoral research fellow at Deakin’s Center for Social and Early Emotional Development. There is limited research in this area; few researchers focus on this area for fathers and those who struggle to find fathers with enough time to participate between their work and new family commitments.
Teague went on to go through multitudes of men more posts on Reddit’s fatherhood forums like r/Daddit and re/PreDaddit to better understand what problems dads face and what kind of support they want.
Findings included dads posting about milestones such as pregnancy announcements and paternal bonding. At the same time, though, many posts had challenges like struggles, budgeting, and sleep.
“One of the things that jumped out was that men tend to prefer sharing informational support. That’s where they share specific advice or information to solve a problem,” reported Teague.
Teague’s machine learning algorithm could also predict with close to 70% accuracy which dads would use more language representative of postpartum depression based on their prepartum posting habits.
“Impact on social engagement is a key symptom of depression. That’s expressed online through fathers’ posting behaviors,” she said.
Other discoveries included seeing that Reddit users were quick to respond to posts about common challenges, like problems in the family environment or broader societal issues. But when posters shared individual challenges like mental health problems, the community was less available to help, said Teague.
This touched home for me, especially as someone who I would still consider a “new dad” with a couple of little ones, and ultimately why I wanted to start Mitten Dad. As dads, we all have something to offer, and I am glad to see this topic getting some coverage and trying to highlight it. We’re all on this journey together!