Dad as carer
Whenever one partner is experiencing general health, or mental health problems such as perinatal anxiety and/or depression, the other partner may find themselves in the role of carer, especially if the illness is having a significant impact on everyday life.
Many dads may find themselves in this role where they become more involved in ensuring that the medical care, health and daily wellbeing needs of their partner are being met. This transition from partner, friend, lover and companion to being the primary carer who is concerned about their partner’s survival and wellbeing needs on a daily basis, can be a difficult one for many men. In addition it may be that if the new mum is not managing her own needs she is also struggling to meet the needs of baby and/or older children. Within this scenario the new dad can start to feel that his own needs are left until last.
For many carers it’s a role they haven’t necessarily chosen to take on and it can be a role that many feel they unskilled and not trained to manage. And at times it can be 24 hours a day, seven days a week – often there is no down time when you are concerned for the daily wellbeing of the whole family, including a partner with perinatal anxiety and/or depression.
Some tips for carers
For anyone becoming a carer can be confronting, for new dads this is equally true.
– Remember that the symptoms your partner is experiencing are due to illness rather than faults in your relationship
– Anxiety and depression are genuine illnesses. Try not to take any out of character behavior personally
– Focus on providing practical help and gentle emotional support. Be guided by the person you are supporting as to how much, and what sort of help, they need
– Remember that you are the support person, but not the health professional. You don’t need to take responsibility for providing medical advice or making treatment decisions. Make sure that the person you’re caring for has a good medical team around them
– It can help people with anxiety or depression to have someone they trust with them at medical appointments. Ask if they want or need this kind of help or someone to discuss treatment options with? Try not to be judgmental about their decisions, particularly those around medication.
Now is not the best time to make big life decisions about things like your relationship, career or your house
– Looking after yourself and your own health is really important and will help you be the best support for your partner
– Accept offers of help from family or friends
Who you can talk to
– Your GP can assess your physical and mental health and refer you to a specialist or an appropriate service if needed. There are medical treatments for anxiety and depression such as medication and counselling and peer support (talking to other fathers). If you do not get the support you need, seek a second opinion
– The PANDA Helpline can provide support, information and referrals
PANDA’s fact sheets are a good place to start, to help you understand and support your partner if they are struggling with perinatal anxiety and/or depression. Available here: PANDA fact sheets.