There’s been a discussion in the media recently about men who develop depression after the birth of their child. The crux of the debate is whether or not this can be called “postnatal depression”.
As with most internet debates, there’s no overriding consensus. There are arguments for and against, and both sides are defending their position passionately. Still, I can’t help feeling that we’re all missing the point.
One of the most common misconceptions I’ve seen in this debate is that it can’t be referred to as postnatal depression, because postnatal depression is caused by the sudden flood of hormones a woman experiences after giving birth. I know this is generally accepted as the cause of the baby blues, but these don’t last longer than two weeks after giving birth. While the baby blues are horrible, they’re a world away from postnatal depression.
Postnatal depression is believed to be caused by a number of factors, and hormones are by no means the only – or even the biggest – causes. Your life has been turned upside down overnight. You’re dealing with sleep deprivation and the weight of responsibility pressing down on your shoulders. You may be feeling isolated, and scared of what’s to come.
None of these feelings are exclusive to women – so why do we insist that postnatal depression is?
In general, the naysayers fall into two distinct categories. The first is those who insist that men struggling with depression need to “man up” and “grow a pair”. I’d like to imagine that these are trolls and keyboard warriors, but it’s an attitude that seems to be prevalent in real life too. I’d simply like to direct these people towards the statistics regarding suicide in young men. That’s the damage caused by repressive attitudes like theirs.
The second group is those who accept that men may be depressed after the birth of their baby, but that it shouldn’t be called “postnatal depression”, or given the same “status”.
I have several problems with this. First, let’s look at the semantics. “Postnatal” denotes the…