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Study examines mental illness in new dads

Understanding the transition by men into fatherhood and the tools that can help them is the focus of new research launched by Griffith University and the Queensland University of Technology.

The study, funded by beyondblue, aims to promote satisfaction in fatherhood and examine the effectiveness of using online interventions to prevent perinatal distress amongst dads; 200 new mothers and fathers are to be assessed.

Researcher Dr Kyra Hamilton, from Griffith Menzies Health Institute Queensland, said the mental implications of new fatherhood lack significant research, despite potential for mental illness in new dads.

“Unfortunately, the role of the father is not widely researched or documented as yet,” Hamilton said. “However, we do know that men are just as likely (as mothers) to suffer from anxiety and depression after the birth of their first child.”

beyondblue explains that while fathers don’t go through the physical and hormonal changes of pregnancy, some struggle to adjust to parenting. The organisation estimates that 5 per cent of men experience depression in the year following the birth of their child, and the risk of this increases if their partner is also experiencing mental illness. Fathers who have gone through mental illness earlier in their lives are also more likely to experience perinatal depression.

Men and women generally experience similar symptoms when going through depression or anxiety, though beyondblue said men are more likely to experience frustration and irritability as part of their symptoms, along with increased anger or drug and alcohol abuse.

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