Many new fathers are filled with great joy on becoming parents, but for some it’s the beginning of a long, dark period of depression. Writing in the Observer, Barbara Ellen completely misrepresents the issue and writes the kind of heartless column you’d expect from the Daily Mail’s Jan Moir:
I would have been more concerned that the mothers in question were having to put up with such exhausting narcissists as partners – men incapable of hiding their sulky self-absorption
As Ally Fogg writes on Comment is Free, Ellen’s column is based on a Daily Mail piece that’s hardly fair, balanced or even accurate. A study found that some fathers suffered from depression in the early stages of parenthood; the Mail’s Robert Lefever claimed that the “poor dears” had post-natal depression, which is something else entirely.
Lefever misreported the study’s findings as being that 5% of fathers develop post-natal depression. He went on to sarcastically ask whether men would get pre-menstrual tension next, and revealed his true colours by worrying that “politicians, of the bleeding heart tendency, will say that these men should be treated sympathetically – at the expense of their employers”.
Cue Lefever and Ellen telling everyone to man up. Fogg again:
Both Lefever and Ellen strongly imply that paternal depression is little more than whiny men wishing to jump aboard the PND bandwagon. Their prescription would appear to be: man up and suck it up. The reality emerging from medical and psychological research is precisely the opposite. Again and again, researchers point out that the biggest problem is that many men will not admit to depression and will not seek help when needed.
Ignore the Ellens and Lefevers of this world: depression is a serious illness with horrible consequences not just for the sufferer, but for the people around them. If you’re a dad and you’re depressed, you need to speak to somebody about it – sooner rather than later.