Is depression and anxiety in new fathers forgotten?

A recent survey suggests that fathers might be the forgotten gender when it comes to mental health issues during and after pregnancy.

A poll of 2000 new mothers and fathers by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) showed that a quarter of men said they experienced depression or anxiety during or after their partner’s pregnancy. Around two-thirds of men were not asked about their mental health at all during the pregnancy, the survey found.

The Fatherhood Institute has called for depression in fathers to be normalized to encourage more men to seek help.

Two in five parents experienced a mental health issue during or after pregnancy with their first child, according to the survey, which found many are too afraid to seek professional support.

The poll for the RCN by YouGov found that less than half (46%) of those who suffered from anxiety, depression or another mental health issue considered seeking help from a healthcare professional. A quarter of those who did not seek professional support said they were too scared to do so.

The RCN suggests the findings point to an “ongoing stigma” around mental health, which is particularly powerful for parents and is preventing many from getting potentially life-saving support. The RCN concluded that too many parents worry that going through depression or anxiety means they will be deemed unfit parents, and that this can be a hugely damaging and incorrect assumption which is putting lives at risk and preventing people getting the support they deserve.

Last year, NICE issued guidelines on antenatal and postnatal health, stating that healthcare workers should “recognise that the range and prevalence of anxiety disorders (including generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder) and depression are under-recognised throughout pregnancy and the postnatal period”.

Therapists such as those in the East Sussex Counsellors group know how frightening and isolating an experience it can be – and how much it can affect fathers too. With the right sort of therapy, the vast majority of them recover very well and are excellent parents. Whether through counselling in Eastbourne, counselling in Hastings, or elsewhere in the county, our members can offer the understanding and support which these parents need.

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