Since postpartum depression (also known as PPD) affects 1 in 5 mothers, a lot of help and support is available for any mom who may be feeling under the weather. For fathers, unfortunately, this same help and support are greatly lacking and the information is far more difficult to find for men suffering from postpartum depression. Although statistics show that 1 in 20 dads suffer from PPD, most never end up seeking help.
Mental health in men if often something that is silenced or swept under the rug but that needs change. It is okay to not be okay no matter your gender and men should never feel they can't seek help if they are struggling mentally.
New dads, experienced dads, stay-at-home dads, single dads, working dads, no matter what kind of father -- all may experience PPD and not one of them should ever feel alone.
To tackle the stigma around dads suffering from PPD, in this article we will be focusing on dads with PPD and what moms can do to help them through it. Whether it be encouraging medical help or just a simple hug, there are many things you can do to support your partner in his time of need.
20 Tell him he's No Less Of A Man
"Man up!" or "Be a Man!" Are two common phrases that are used in society often when a boy or man is showing emotion or crying. This may be one of the reasons why many men grow up thinking that emotion makes them weak and that if they show any they are not a "real man".
The first thing you can do is remind him that talking about his mental health does not make him weak or any less of a man.
It takes real strength to admit when you need help or are struggling and a 'real man' is not afraid to do so. Remind him of all this and break that stigma.
19 He needs Daddy and Baby Time
There is a lot of things Mom can do to support Dad in this tough time but there is also someone else who can help- the child/children. Dad may be struggling with fatherhood but that does not mean he will not want to spend time with or help out with the child/children.
This time will help with bonding, his confidence and they will show him love which is what he needs, lots of love. As much as you will want to be there with them remember to allow some time for the children just to be with daddy, this is crucial.
18 Suggest Medical Help
This is something that many men can find very difficult; accepting medical help. As I mentioned, men are told by society to get on with things and that they are not allowed to show emotion so seeking help may make them feel inferior. Let him know that you support him and that this will help get him back to feeling himself.
Offer to go with him if he wants you to and allow him time to think through when he wants to go. You can help only so much as it is only a qualified medical professional who can diagnose and therefore help best manage what he is going through.
17 Find the daddy groups
As a mother, I know when I was experiencing significant baby blues, going to baby groups, and meeting other mothers helped a lot and made me feel less alone. I would look forward to these groups every week and I think the mixture of business and sense of belonging helped me through that difficult time.
PPD is obviously significantly different from the baby blues but from my research, I have found many say that speaking to other parents also helped them. So, for dad, it may be beneficial to join a dad group and meet fellow fathers who have experienced the same thoughts, worries, and anxieties.
16 Don't Push him
You want to be there to support your husband and show him love and as much as you want to help you must remember not to push. This time may be difficult for you too and seeing your other half experiencing mental health problems can be heart-breaking but you can't fix it and you must accept that.
You cannot push them to get help or go to a group or even to speak to you but if you are there and they know you are there that is the best thing you can do. Pushing too hard can push them away and that is not what you want.
15 Acknowledge his Feelings
Life gets busy especially when you are a parent but try your absolute best not to brush past your partner’s feelings as this will make them feel like what they are feeling doesn't matter. So, make sure you acknowledge how they are feeling and let them know you understand they are going through a hard time right now.
This can be as quick as a much-needed hug or a simple kiss and can be crucial in your partner’s recovery.
Don't let him feel alone. I am sure he would do or is doing the same for you.
14 Be Patient with him
You may not be able to recognize the father of your child at the moment because of the behavior changes due to PPD, it may be taking its toll on you and you are dying for your partner to reappear, the man you fell in love with but please be patient.
Easier said than done I know, but some patience can really help towards getting better rather than trying to push him too quick. You are probably going through your own struggles too but you must remember that these things take time. The father of your child needs you and your child needs you to help him through this, for their sake and your own.
13 Listen To Him
Listening is a key component to a relationship in general and when times get tough it becomes even more important. You might remember always nagging at your man to listen to you and do things you ask, well now it’s your turn to listen to him as he needs someone to talk to- specifically his partner.
As mentioned earlier, men often feel they shouldn't talk about how they feel and that their emotions should be shut away so when he is reaching out to you, it may have taken a lot of bravery on his part to do that, so make sure you listen to every word.
12 Look After Yourself, Too
Always very important! Yes, this list is stressing that you should support your man as they are going through PPD but don't forget to look after yourself too. For many couples, if one of is suffering from PPD, it is likely the other will be too. In the situations where PPD follows soon after birth as the mother you are not only dealing with perhaps having PPD yourself, looking after a new baby and supporting your husband, you are still recovering from childbirth! It's a lot to handle.
So, make sure that you do something to relax you, something that makes you happy and don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it too.
11 Be Thankful for what you both have
When your partner is reaching out to you, telling you that they are struggling, make sure to thank them for confiding in you. Of all the people in the world, they have chosen to come to you in their darkest hour and share with you what is going on in their mind and that is not something to be taken for granted. Make sure he knows just how much you appreciate him and that you are there for him.
I am sure he will thank you later for how supportive and encouraging you were and he will thank you for helping him through this rough patch.
10 Take A Much-Needed Weekend Away
This obviously depends on the circumstances- if your child or children are very young you may not want to leave them- but a weekend away as a couple may do you both the world of good.
It is never good to run away from your problems and I am not suggesting you encourage your partner to take a leave of absence from Fatherhood but having some one-to-one time with your man to chat and relax may show him that things are going to be okay. It won't take away what he is feeling but it may help him see some light at the end of the tunnel.
9 Get Help Together
Earlier it was mentioned that if one parent suffers from PPD it is likely that the other will too. So if this is your scenario, to support one another, you could get help together.
Two is always better than one and as a team, you can encourage each other to get help by going together.
Yes, there may be points where doctors want to talk to you individually but even being in the next room can be comforting. If you want to help your man with what he is going through you also have to help yourself and slowly things will get better.
8 Look Out For Silence
People always think that depression is obvious, right there in your face, screaming and crying. But what is scary about depression (including PPD) is that it can be covered by a smile or by silence, it can go under the radar so easily when inside that same person is suffering.
From my research, one of the big tells when it comes to male mental health is silence. Was your man once the life of the party and now he is timid? Is he coming in from work not saying anything? Is he struggling to bond with the child, never trying to communicate? These could be signs that he has PPD or has relapsed into PPD.
7 Check Up On Him
No matter the roles of your family- whether you work and Dad stays home, Dad goes to work, you both work etc.- Remember to check on him. This can be by a quick text, phone call or even email. Maybe even pop home for lunch or visit him on his lunch break. All these small gestures show you care and that you want to make sure he knows you support him.
Of course, you don't want to smother him but just asking about his day or making small talk could make the world of difference. Do this daily and you never know, things might start to look up.
6 Know that it's Only Temporary
PPD is hard, whether you are supporting your partner with PPD or even more so the person with PPD themselves, all this on top of parenting can be overwhelming but remember... it is only temporary.
I'm not saying everything will be sunshine and rainbows forever or that the recovery process will be quick but somewhere down the line things do get better if you have love, support and medical help, there will be a brighter day and those you can look forward to.
Take victory in the good things that happen no matter how small, those little moments will get you through. Remind your partner of this also.
5 Reassure him that he's a Good Dad
After a baby is born the attention is on the mother and new baby. 'You are a great Mom' is something many moms are told daily and there are often lots of family and friends checking up on you. This is understandable as you did just carry the child for nine months and go through labor but what about the dads?
So many fathers are left feeling like they are not good enough or that no one appreciates how hard they are trying. Who is there to tell the men that they too are wonderful parents? Make sure you do that for your man because his PPD will be convincing him that he is not.
4 Break down the tasks
His PPD, as I mentioned in the previous entry, may be making him feel that he is not a good enough parent and that he cannot fulfill his child's needs. This is certainly not the case and you must show him that he can do it.
Without pushing, try to encourage him to do small tasks that scare him and praise him once that task is done. May sound simple or even childish but when you are feeling insecure that is what you need. Even if he only manages to feed the baby half a bottle or change one nappy, that is an accomplishment and through this, he will gain confidence hopefully tackling his PPD.
3 Limit Visitors for a while
When a new baby comes into the world everyone wants to come and visit. People who you haven't seen in years will travel far and wide to get a cuddle from your little one.
Grandparents, especially, are often on your doorstep the minute they hear the news, but this may be too much for Dad who is suffering with PPD.
From lack of confidence to panic about being around lots of people, try to limit the visitors while you and your family adjust to these changes and let your man have some time to deal with his PPD without interference.
2 Read Up on PPD
This may well be what you are doing now by reading this article, read up about PPD. Whether it be through the internet or leaflets that are handed out by the doctor, getting clued up on what the father of your child is dealing with can help.
Even if it does not show you new ways to support him or that you find that nothing you are doing is helping him, at least this way you will be able to be more empathetic because you will have a better understanding of what he is going through. I am sure your man will appreciate the effort you have gone to.
1 Intervene When necessary
Being a parent is a big responsibility and no one is the perfect mother or father. It is good to encourage your man to face his fears and try his best to tackle the tasks of fatherhood and looking after the baby on his own but when things get too much for him or you can see either himself or the baby is getting distressed, it is okay to intervene.
This may knock his confidence a bit but with you motivating him and the love of your child to get him through, it will build back up again.
Better to be safe than sorry and neglecting to intervene could potentially stress the father and baby.
References: psychologytoday.com, parents.com, postpartum.org