For a very long time, no one spoke about postpartum depression (PPD), leaving millions of women to suffer alone without treatment out of fear of the stigma attached to PPD. Thankfully many people, including celebrities, have opened up about their experience with PPD making it so more women are able to be open and honest about their own struggles. What we are still failing to recognize is that men too can experience postnatal depression and that failure to talk about it openly is potentially harmful to those who do experience it.
In a new study published in the Journal of Mental Health, it determined that people were twice as likely to recognize symptoms of postpartum depression in women than they were postnatal depression in men. The study looked at 406 British adults between the ages of 18 and 70 who were shown cases of both men and women who were experiencing symptoms of postnatal depression. They found that across the board participants were less likely to recognize symptoms in a man than they were in a woman. Of those that did recognize symptoms of depression, it was the woman who was overwhelmingly identified as suffering compared to men.
Postnatal depression is a real struggle for many men. According to Postpartum Men over 1000 men in the United States struggle with depression every day, noting that some studies have shown the number to be as high as 2700. These numbers are incredibly high since this isn't something that's widely recognized therefore not widely treated.
The study found that while 90% of those who participated in the study correctly recognized postnatal depression symptoms in the women, that number was only 46% when it concerned the men, the Independent reported. Twenty-one percent of the participants actually thought the men were simply tired or just stressed out with having a new baby instead of recognizing that their symptoms could be part of a larger problem. In contrast, less than one percent thought the same for the women in the study despite both presenting the same symptoms.
The National Health Service explains that symptoms of postnatal depression can include:
- a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
- lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
- trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
- problems concentrating and making decisions
- feeling agitated, irritable or very apathetic
Lead author Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, commented on the research pointing out that people are much more sympathetic to women after the birth of a child than men. “Our findings suggest that the British public are significantly more likely to believe that something is ‘wrong’ when seeing a woman displaying the symptoms of postnatal depression, and they are also far more likely to correctly label the condition as postnatal depression.”
While it's wonderful that there has been more awareness surrounding postpartum depression among new mothers, it's clear we need to do more to ensure the mental health and well being of new fathers too.
“What is clear is that much more can be done to promote better understanding of paternal postnatal depression, so people don’t brush it off as simply tiredness or stress,” Swami added.