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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Call for greater awareness in UAE of depression in new dads

The risk of postnatal depression in new fathers could be even higher in the UAE because of work pressure and limited support networks

Heathcare professionals in the UAE are calling for greater awareness of anxiety and depression in new fathers.

It follows research conducted in the UK that showed 39 per cent of men experience "some anxieties" after having children.

The risk of postnatal depression in new fathers could be even higher in the UAE because of work pressure and limited support networks, experts say, while its effects on the dad can be as devastating as those suffered by women.

"These two roles [work and being a new father] can increase the risk for postnatal depression in fathers," said leading psychologist, Maartje Suijskens, from the Priory Wellbeing Centre in Dubai. The centre is part of The Priory Group which conducted the research.

"Life as a expatriate means the work pressure here is really high so the risk might be a little bit higher," she said.

"If you are in your home country, then you have your friends and your family so they can support the mother and father. Here, the family is really small so the father has to take on that role to support his wife."

Ms Suijskens added that many men are often reluctant to speak out.

“Showing emotion or exhibiting feelings of anxiety or despair is still regarded as a sign of weakness by many men.

"As a result, they refuse to recognise when they may need help."

Ms Suijskens is calling for more recognition of paternal postnatal depression and a greater awareness of the symptoms among new dads and the medical profession in the UAE.

The research also showed that one in 10 men say they have "negative thoughts" after having children; one in 15 said they believed they were suffering from paternal post natal depression; 42 per cent of men who experienced depression or anxieties did not seek help, saying they were too embarrassed; and nearly 70 per cent of men felt there was "still a stigma" around paternal post natal depression.

The symptoms include feelings of exhaustion and anxiety; being obsessed with finances; withdrawing from your family; being irritable or intolerant; and poor sleep patterns.

According to researchers, also nearly half of men and women (47 per cent) said there was not enough support for new fathers.

“Our research suggests that the number of fathers who experience anxiety and depression is greatly underestimated. Hopefully by raising awareness we can encourage this situation to change," she said.

“[It is] is a complex and challenging disorder and its effects can be far-reaching. It can have a serious effect on parent-infant interaction and bonding during the first year of life, and can contribute to a child’s emotional, behavioural, cognitive and interpersonal problems in later life," she said.

Studies have shown that new fathers are also more likely to suffer from delayed depression than mothers, commonly three to six months after their baby is born, and often when the mother has recovered from delivery and is going back to work.

“If your wife has postnatal depression, you might feel more prone to depression too.”

Ms Suijskens advocates an open and supportive relationship between partners: “The worst thing new parents can do is to bottle up their emotions and hope they will go away. You’re more likely to get a clearer perspective and the support you need to feel better if you talk to a professional.”

If the symptoms persist then it's advised to seek professional help.

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Read more:

Mental health in the UAE: Three men open up about their battles and how they overcame them

Men are scared to admit they are depressed, mental health experts say

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