New dads suffering depression after baby's birth struggle to find regional support

One in 10 Australian fathers are struggling with depression following the birth of their baby and a lack of specialist regional services is making the condition even more challenging.

Anthony (not his real name) and his partner spent a significant amount of time trying to conceive with IVF but halfway through the pregnancy, the father-to-be was hit by crippling anxiety.

The 38-year-old Victorian spent hours a day dry retching and found himself unable to function at work and at home.

"I could almost break down into tears at work doing things," he said.

In the months after the birth of his daughter, the anxiety was so bad that on several occasions Anthony drove himself to the emergency department of the local hospital in a near-psychotic state.

"I don't know how I managed to drive there," he said.

One night while his daughter was sleeping, Anthony was so overwhelmed by suicidal thoughts that he called a helpline.

"They basically asked me, am I safe enough to drive to hospital — and the answer was 'no'," Anthony recalled.

"I remember standing out on my front garden knowing that my wife would be home from work soon [and] thinking 'I wish this ambulance would come' so we could just go before she got home."

Anthony and his wife are in discussions about whether or not to have another child.

Stigmatised dads not recognising mental health problems

Figures from Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) show about one in 20 men experience antenatal depression, and about one in 10 new dads struggle with postnatal depression.

About one in 10 women experience depression in the lead-up to birth, with about one in seven experiencing postnatal depression.

But while many women are connected to services such as maternal and child health centres and mothers' groups, many men are left struggling on their own.

"They might not talk to people about it, might not feel they have connections, and might not know other dads," said Ursula Kiel, senior mental health clinician at Raphael Services at St John of God Health Care Bendigo.

"They might find that their low mood comes out in irritability, frustration, anger, but they might not recognise that is part of the depression."

She said male perinatal depression was under-reported as symptoms could be attributed to other factors.

"We do know both people in the couple would be going through lots of changes, perhaps financially and with work, and maybe [the depression] gets explained as those other reasons — job stress for example," Ms Kiel said.

Anthony's anxiety came at a "heightened" period of stress at work, was exacerbated by the pregnancy, and only escalated after he quit his job, unable to cope.

He also feels the challenges of parenthood can often be greater for men who are "meant to be the strong one".

"I grew up in that environment, where dad was the provider, and I think that is something that's built into the psyche still, to some extent," he said.

Originally Published by ABC News, continue reading here.

Those experiencing difficulty can call the PANDA Helpline on 1300 726 306 from 9am to 7.30pm Monday to Friday.

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