As many as one in 10 Australian men will experience perinatal depression, but very few of them will seek help from their GP.
This month, St John of God health care services (SJOG) said while they provided counselling in 2017 to almost 2000 new parents with perinatal depression or anxiety, only 50 of the attendees were male.
This amount was dangerously low, according to the national director of SJOG Raphael services, Helen McAllister.
“We’re experiencing a rise in the number of parents seeking support to cope with the significant life changes of parenthood, but very few of these are the dads,” she said.
A new campaign from SJOG is hoping to encourage men to become strong and confident dads by dealing with their perinatal depression.
The “Build the bond” program also hopes to encourage GPs to talk to male patients who might be struggling with fatherhood.
“Parents are often very reluctant to ask for psychological help before and after the birth of their baby and need to be specifically asked at appointments how they are going during this time of change,” Ms McAllister said.
According to Beyond Blue, awareness of men suffering from perinatal depression is still low.
“Although we know that one in 10 fathers will experience perinatal depression, 45% of dads don’t know that fathers can even have the condition,” Dr Grant Blashki, a GP and beyondblue’s lead clinical advisor, said.
“It’s important that GPs screen men for perinatal depression because fathers are not likely to raise the issue themselves,” Dr Blashki said.
Despite mental health campaigns, men might still feel hesitant to talk about their emotional wellbeing. Fatherhood can exacerbate the issue with men feeling they have to be “strong” for a partner.
“Unfortunately, research also tells us that 43% of first time fathers see anxiety and depression after having a baby as a sign of weakness,” Dr Blashki said.
There are many services which aim to reduce the stigma associated with perinatal depression in men.
Beyondblue offers a text messaging service called SMS4dads which sends fathers information during and after the pregnancy.
The texts provide links to online resources to help fathers bond with their babies and be more supportive partners.