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Dads And Depression: Are You Passing Your Symptoms To Your Children?

I can admit to the Father Factor readers that I’ve struggled with depression over the years, with therapy and group sessions aiding me through the rough patches. Various things happened over the course of my life that led to my diagnosis, but I tried hard to mask the pain. This is a dangerous practice done by lots of people, especially men. This could prove to be even more troubling if you happen to be a father.

There is a disturbing lack of research showing what being a depressed father does to children in the home– until recently. A study undertaken by NYU researchers found that one out of every four children who are raised in a home with depressed parents soon develop mental health issues of their own. This nationwide study captured data from 7,247 US households where the parents and children all lived. Of that number, 6% of the fathers showed results that suggested they were depressed.

Further numbers in the research paper show other alarming stats: 15% of children with a depressed father showed symptoms; 20% of children with a depressed mother showed symptoms and, lastly, 25% of children living with two depressed parents showed symptoms. Factors influencing the depressive symptoms in parents included poverty, joblessness, and having a child with special health care needs.

Amazingly, this is the first large study done on male depression as it relates to fatherhood although there is plenty research on maternal and postpartum/postnatal depression. One could suggest that men are typically insular with their emotions and cope silently. Another point could be that many men don’t even know where to go for resources. When was the last time you saw a men’s mental health care center in your neighborhood? Do you know of any outreach groups doing work on a large scale?

I can tell you from my own experience that finding help for my depression was an epic task. I called therapists and counselors who all had many female clients but barely any male patients. Finding groups to talk about my issues also proved difficult, as I scoured the Internet and newspaper classifieds for assistance. Eventually, I did find some help.

It was important for me to move beyond my depression as a father. I know that my child watches every move, so it became necessary for me to make sure she doesn’t repeat my mistakes. If we want to make certain as fathers and parents to not pass on bad physical health habits, we have to start including our mental health in that equation as well.

Are you, or a father you know, suffering with depression? Do you think fathers pass on bad mental health habits to their children? Leave us a comment below or tweet to us at: @thefatherfactor. You can also like and comment on our Facebook page by following this link.

Postpartum Depression... in Dads

This is from today's Wall Street Journal: "More than one in 10 fathers become depressed after the birth of their child, and their postpartum depression is linked to greater risk of the mother developing depression in that period as well, according to a study published Tuesday." And "...a growing body of evidence suggests that depression in either parent is linked to long-term behavioral and psychiatric problems in the child."

While I certainly was not depressed when my son was born 4 months ago, there were certainly a great deal of new pressures on me both at work (provide) and home (nurture and guide). I can easily see how these pressures, along with the strong emotions that come with the arrival of a new child, could lead to depression.

What I found particularly disturbing about the article were the reader comments attached to it. One person said he did not understand why the Wall Street Journal would even print the article, especially in the business section.

Why wouldn't they!?

First, when fathers or mothers are depressed, it has a profound impact on their child's development, which in turn, effects just about everything that child does in the future, such as doing well in school, getting into college, thriving in a career, etc.

Second, fathers are whole people. When they are depressed at home it has an impact on how they do at work. Thus, business can suffer. This is the fundamental premise behind work-family balance programs. If dads are working too much, they are not paying enough attention to their kids, who desperately need it. And if they are depressed about what is happening at home, they don't pay enough attention at work.

It is all linked.

Finally, you have to hand it to the guys in the article who admitted to being depressed. That is not easy for guys to do, especially publicly.

Were you depressed or maybe just sad after the birth of your baby?

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