How a nonprofit is highlighting postpartum depression among men this Father’s Day

Postpartum depression is not only experienced by mothers, and one group is helping to bring awareness to fathers suffering from this mood disorder.

Ten years ago, pediatrician David Levine didn’t understand what he was feeling shortly after the birth of his first son.

“I had a lot of irritability and anger,” he said. “I had homicidal and suicidal thoughts. I was functioning so I felt like, ‘whatever this is, I don’t know'”

Levine said he learned a few years later after the birth of his second son, when the symptoms returned, that it was postpartum depression.

As a pediatrician, he knew how to diagnose new mothers battling the disorder, but couldn’t recognize it in himself.

“If you had asked me at the time if I was sad or anxious, I would have told you, ‘No,'” Levine said. “It wasn’t until I had [searched for] it, that I realized that there was even a possibility that men can have it.”

His search for help led to the national nonprofit Postpartum Support International (PSI). He got so involved with the group and helped other men, that he’s now the organization’s vice-chair.

Levine said it’s time to put a spotlight on men’s postpartum mental health this Father’s Day.

“Men don’t really talk about this type of thing,” he said. “It’s an enormous number of men who go through some form of this and a very small number of them actually get help.”

The disorder can take on different symptoms in men, showing up as anger, frustration and irritation in dads. In new mothers, it looks like emotional swings, frequent crying, fatigue and anxiety, according to PSI.

Fathers are overlooked sometimes because of the common misperception that it only affects women.

But at least 1 in 10 men suffer from postpartum depression between pregnancy and the year following a baby’s birth. And as many as 50% of fathers suffer from the disorder if their partner is struggling with it, Levine said.

What’s more is that new fathers tend to suffer in silence because they’re less likely to alert family and friends to their symptoms, said Dr. Daniel Singley, a licensed psychologist and member of PSI’s advisory board.

As a result, only about 25% of men who develop the condition get the help they need.

“For the father himself just to recognize that, ‘I’m depressed,’ is oftentimes not the way that it plays,” Singley said. “He’ll just think there’s something around me that needs fixing. And it’s important for those around him to serve as a mirror to him.”

Another barrier to getting help is that men tend to isolate when they’re facing difficulties.

“That’s one of the reasons why it’s so helpful to have something like a support group,” Singley said. “To not white-knuckle it, stuff it and go it alone.”

Singley and Levine point new dads struggling with perinatal mental health disorders to PSI’s 24-hour hotline at 1-800-944-4773.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2024 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Gigi Barnett

Gigi Barnett is an anchor at WTOP. She has worked in the media for more than 20 years. Before joining WTOP, she was an anchor at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas, and a staff reporter at The Miami Herald. She’s a Navy wife and mom of three.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up