Even saying the word “depression” is enough to make plenty of us to feel squeamish. It’s not fun to talk about, so many people simply don’t. Part of the reason for this is the stigma surrounding depression runs deep. Up until the past few decades, there was no proven treatment for mental health problems. The people suffering from them often turned to alcohol or drugs, and that left a trail of devastation. Depression wasn’t talked about 50 years ago, but it certainly played a major role in plenty of people’s lives.
Nowadays, there are plenty of treatment options, but the stigma of depression lingers. Far too many of us won’t talk about our problems. Many are unwilling to get help, and the result is these people often suffer more than they should. It’s not easy to admit you have a mental health problem, but it doesn’t mean you’re weak. It doesn’t mean you can’t be fixed. It doesn’t mean you can’t lead a normal, happy life.
The only way you doom yourself to this fate is if you keep ignoring your very real problem. With that said, here’s some recent mental health research we need to discuss.
Postnatal depression in men
Postnatal or postpartum depression is a well-known problem among new moms. The stigma among women has faded somewhat over the past decade, partly thanks to celebrities who have been willing to talk about their personal struggles, as well as increased awareness. This is all a good thing, and I hope it keeps getting easier to talk about. However, it’s important we also talk about how this illness affects men.
A new study of 447 new dads showed that the established method of detecting this postnatal depression, known as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, does not work well on men. The study was performed on Swedish men and women, and while all women in Sweden are screened for postpartum depression, men are not tested.
Previous studies claim that approximately 10–12 percent of women and 8 percent of men suffer from this illness. However, this new research points out that depression in men manifests itself differently than it does in women. Thus, a separate screening method is needed.
Unsurprisingly, at least to me, was that very few of the men who were diagnosed with postnatal depression were in contact with a doctor or their health care provider. In fact, 83 percent of the men with moderate to severe depression hadn’t even told anyone about this issue, which brings me to my next point.
Men less likely to get treatment for their depression
It doesn’t matter what sort of mental health problem we’re talking about. Men are consistently less likely to seek treatment for their mental health than women. I think in the case of postpartum depression, even fewer men are likely to get help because they don’t even realize men can have postpartum depression.
Having just made it through the first three months with our first newborn, I understand how easily this can happen. Everything in life suddenly becomes more complicated and stressful. You’re sleeping less. Your routine before the baby is gone. You’re probably rushing through more meals. And did I mention all the sleep you’re missing?
Look, having a newborn is rough. Everybody who goes through it knows what I mean. It’s not that we don’t love our new baby endless amounts. It’s just hard dealing with taking care of another human 24 hours a day, every day. So please don’t make it any harder on yourself by not talking about your problem.
I started seeking treatment for my mental health issues at least six years ago, and it’s still hard to confront the possibility of new issues like this. It’s difficult for me to consider having postnatal depression, because even though I’m writing this article, there’s this voice in the back of my head that wants me to “be a man and deal with your own problems.” For whatever reason, these ideas are ingrained in us, and although it isn’t easy to overcome them, we have to try.
How bad depression really is
It’s easy to feel all alone when you’re depressed. It’s easy to feel like you can’t get any better and decide it’s not even worth trying. I know the feeling, but it does not have to be this way for anyone out there who’s struggling. There’s no magic pill or cure. It’s a process that takes time and energy, but it’s essential to at least sit down and consider if you need help.
Ignoring our mental health problems won’t make them go away. We might find ways to forget, at least temporarily. We might find ways to push those feelings deep down inside us, but they will find their way back to the surface eventually. When that happens, the results won’t make it any easier for you to get better.
If you’re a new parent, the last thing you want to be is weak. The last thing you want to do is admit your own shortcomings. You want to be and do everything your kid needs. I know the feeling, but more important than anything else, you need to be there.
The suicide rate among men suffering from depression is four times higher than it is in women. I know my daughter is going to need me many, many times in the future for problems big and small. Your sons and daughters are going to need you, too.
If you need help, get help. When you have a headache, you take Tylenol or Advil. When you have a mental health problem, ask your doctor what you need to take and do to get better. Postpartum depression in men is an illness. Treat it like one.
Jay McKenzie loves soccer, history and feeling great. He’s on a quest to eat better and exercise more, and he wants to share his experiences along the way. You can email him at [email protected] with comments or questions. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.