Be­ing a fa­ther is a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence, but it isn’t al­ways easy. Men could cope bet­ter with the pres­sures of par­ent­hood if they sim­ply opened up about their feel­ings, say the ex­perts

Friday - - Society -

Be­com­ing a dad is the best day of most men’s life, but the ar­rival of a baby brings with it all sorts of new stresses that can af­fect men­tal health. Just as women can suf­fer from post­na­tal de­pres­sion, stud­ies have shown that around 7 per cent of men ex­pe­ri­ence feel­ings of anx­i­ety af­ter the birth of a child.

It’s not only new dads though. One in six peo­ple, both men and women, will ex­pe­ri­ence a men­tal health prob­lem at some stage in their life, and re­search by UK-based men­tal health char­ity Mind has found that 37 per cent of men who are feel­ing wor­ried or low don’t talk about it or seek help.

While this could be be­cause men of­ten don’t recog­nise their symp­toms as de­pres­sion, it could also be due to the fact that men sim­ply don’t talk about their men­tal well­be­ing the way women do, says Dr Ray­mond H Ham­den, clin­i­cal and foren­sic psy­chol­o­gist at Hu­man Re­la­tions In­sti­tute and Clin­ics, Jumeirah Lakes Tow­ers, Dubai.

News­pa­pers and mag­a­zines are full of cov­er­age high­light­ing fe­male psy­cho­log­i­cal well-be­ing, but th­ese is­sues are rarely dis­cussed in re­la­tion to men. Men­tal ill­ness, it seems, is just not an ac­cept­ably ma­cho sub­ject.

This is the fo­cus of this year’s Men’s HealthWeek, which has been run­ning from June 10 and will con­tinue un­til Fa­ther’s Day on June 16. Around the world pro­grammes meant to raise aware­ness about men’s health prob­lems have been on­go­ing with the in­ten­tion of en­cour­ag­ing men and boys to go for reg­u­lar med­i­cal check-ups and seek early treat­ment for dis­ease and ill­ness, in­clud­ing men­tal health.

Rais­ing aware­ness is im­por­tant be­cause not talk­ing about or seek­ing help for health is­sues isn’t do­ing guys any favours, says Dr John Chisholm, chair­man of the Men’s Health Fo­rum, which or­gan­ises Men’s HealthWeek in the UK. In fact, he says it usu­ally makes their prob­lems far worse. “I think men are gen­er­ally less prompt and less will­ing to seek help about their men­tal health than women,” says Dr Chisholm. “It’s not that men­tal health is­sues are more com­mon in men, it’s what men do about them that’s the prob­lem.”

Just 23 per cent of men would see their doc­tor if they felt low for more than two weeks, com­pared to 33 per cent of women, ac­cord­ing to Mind re­search.

“Cul­tur­ally men are re­luc­tant to ad­mit and talk about per­sonal prob­lems be­cause they see it as em­bar­rass­ing and a sign of weak­ness and vul­ner­a­bil­ity,” says Dr Chisholm. “There’s a re­luc­tance to make a fuss or ap­pear silly, and a feel­ing that things will get bet­ter even if they take no ac­tion.”

Un­der pres­sure

Many new fa­thers are un­der stress deal­ing with the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of be­ing a dad, but ac­cord­ing to Dr Chisholm, they don’t talk about it as much as new mothers. “Par­ent­hood is a huge change in your life,” he says. “You need to be less self-ab­sorbed and that comes as quite a shock to many par­ents, par­tic­u­larly men.”

Fa­thers are also un­der pres­sure to pro­vide for the child and pro­tect their fam­ily. “Hav­ing a child is a beau­ti­ful ex­pe­ri­ence, but also stress­ful,” says Dr Ham­den. “Even pos­i­tive stress af­fects dy­nam­ics be­tween hus­band and wife. The fa­ther also has to make changes to his day-to­day rou­tine and life­style to ac­com­mo­date the new­born.”

Al­though in Dr Ham­den’s ex­pe­ri­ence in Dubai, more men are com­ing for­ward and re­port­ing feel­ing de­pressed than ever be­fore, he says there is still a stigma at­tached to con­di­tions as­so­ci­ated with emo­tions. “Men feel they’re de­signed to fix and cor­rect things,” he says. “So­cial­i­sa­tion

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