Saskatchewan

Becoming a dad can take a toll on men's mental health, according to new survey

The Movember Foundation did a survey that found fatherhood can take a toll on a man’s mental health.

The issues can stem from social isolation and increased stress levels

The study surveyed men ages 18-75 from the UK, Australia, Canada and the US. (Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beachon/Associated Press)

Fatherhood can take a toll on a man's mental health, according to a new survey, and that's a reality that Tyler Peters knows all too well. 

The new dad from Regina said he felt symptoms of depression after the birth of his daughter.

"I have battled with my mental health throughout my life and hid it for most of the time just because I wasn't ready to be vulnerable with anybody," Peters said. "I wasn't taught how to be vulnerable."

The Movember Foundation commissioned a survey of 4,000 men, aged between 18 to 75 in the U.K., Australia, Canada and the U.S, carried out through Ipsos MORI between May 7 to 15.

Seventy per cent of those surveyed reported their stress levels increased in the 12 months after becoming a first-time dad.

"These results do not come as a shock, as many fathers surveyed admitted that parenthood was more stressful now than ever before, but instead of opening up, many men attempt to deal with these challenges on their own, suffering in silence," a press release from the foundation stated.

Regina father Tyler Peters said he was excited for the birth of his daughter, but struggled with depression afterwards. (Submitted by The Movember Foundation)

Feelings of emptiness not unusual

Shane Demerchant of the Movember Foundation said the feeling of depression among new dads is not unusual.

"We've really started to recognize that new fathers, and particularly young fathers like Tyler, experience a pretty massive period of transition and change when they become dads," Demerchant said.

Peters said he realized something was wrong about three weeks after his daughter was born when he no longer enjoyed doing the things he used to love, like when a friend approached him to talk about their shared interest in fantasy football.

"I was thinking to myself I could absolutely care less about this conversation. I could quit fantasy football right now and I don't even care," he recalled of his thoughts at the time.

To grow and to be a great dad is hard too, but to be stuck in a place where you don't belong, that's the worst, so get help.- Tyler Peters offers advice to fellow new fathers

Peters eventually saw his family doctor and was prescribed antidepressants.

Pressures to be a 'superdad'

Peters said he felt intense pressure to be a super father, to go above and beyond his best version of himself. 

Peters kept his feelings to himself, but said he counted himself lucky to have a friend he could speak with openly, who told him a great dad is one who takes care of himself.

"What I would like to tell new dads is look, this change is hard," Peters said, "To grow and to be a great dad is hard too, but to be stuck in a place where you don't belong, that's the worst, so get help."

Fatherhood may highlight existing mental health issues

Dermerchant said that it is incredibly common for fatherhood to highlight existing mental health problems. Stress and isolation are big risk factors for anxiety and depression, he said.

"What our study showed was that about three quarters of men who are new fathers said that their stress levels increased," Demerchant said.

Demerchant said that once you become a dad, your routine may change along with your priorities.

"A lot of new dads feel like after the first year of their child's birth, they have fewer friends, their social networks change, and it's hard to adjust and their free time evaporates," Demerchant said. 

Demerchant said if you suspect one of your friends may be feeling this way, it is important to reach out to them to see how they're doing.

"We want you to listen to what your friends say and take the time beyond that to check in afterwards." 

with files from CBC Saskatchewan's Morning Edition

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