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‘It doesn’t make you weak’: Father recovering from postpartum depression urges new dads to watch for signs

Global News logo Global News 2021-10-26 Kendra Slugoski
Christopher Rose-Banks and his wife Lisette Lopez-Rose, with daughter Sybil. Both parents speak openly about their experiences with postpartum depression. © Supplied Christopher Rose-Banks and his wife Lisette Lopez-Rose, with daughter Sybil. Both parents speak openly about their experiences with postpartum depression.

Christopher Rose-Banks had always been upbeat.

The Richmond, CA., resident was always the easygoing guy and never let things get to him.

After the birth of his first child, a daughter name Sybil, Rose-Banks said his moods started to change.

"I would get very nervous or anxious when putting her down to sleep," said Rose-Banks. "Any little noise... we have two small cats, if they were making noise around the house I would immediately get frustrated."

The drip of a drain pipe outside was enough to set him off.

"It was pretty heavy," said Rose-Banks.

The depression and anxiety started when Sybil was six months old -- after the period Rose-Banks and his wife, Lisette Lopez-Rose, struggled to feed their daughter at night. Sybil wasn't gaining weight and the couple had to wake their newborn every hour to feed her.

They were exhausted.

After his wife suffered from postpartum depression, she suggested he may be experiencing the same rollercoaster of emotions.

Read more: Mental health visits for new moms rose 30% during COVID-19 pandemic, study shows

"She said you need to look out for these things and unfortunately I missed her signs when she was first going through her postpartum, but she was like, 'We're not going to make the same mistake twice.'"

The couple joined a postpartum support group with Postpartum Support International (PSI). The group meetings helped.

Rose-Banks said he is still working on recovery but feels much more able to cope and calm down.

Both parents have made it their mission to bring the postpartum discussion mainstream -- especially for fathers.

Lisette has launched a social media page detailing her ongoing journey.

Rose-Banks said any new dad-to-be hears about his struggle -- including his coworkers and even his boss.

"The first thing I said to them was make sure you look into postpartum. Like, it's no joke and it doesn't just affect your wife, it affects you.

"It's a huge elephant in the room when it comes to men."

Read more: ‘Anxiety and depression are increasing’: Alberta doctor sees spike in mental health visits

Sheila Duffy, director of Pacific Post Partum Support Society, said male postpartum depression and anxiety needs to be talked about more.

"Dads are at a higher risk if their partner has had postpartum depression or anxiety," said Duffy.

"I think with fathers in particular, it can be challenging in that it may not be the way they've been socialized to reach out and talk about their problems.

"It's a little misleading, the name, because it's really perinatal depression and anxiety -- meaning symptoms often start during pregnancy."

It's estimated one in 10 dads suffer from postpartum depression.

Duffy said that number could be higher, especially since the pandemic has led to more isolation and a lack of supports.

Add in working from home or a mother suffering from postpartum depression, the father may feel like he has to keep it together and "pick up some of the slack."

"We know because calls to our support line have increased. Demand for support has increased quite dramatically."

Families from across Canada and from parts of the United States have been calling or texting for counselling -- looking for emotional support.

Pacific Post Partum Support Line: 604-255-7999

Duffy said anxiety and depression can show up in different ways: anger, frustration or irritability. A new father may spend more time at work because it's the only place they feel competent.

"A lot of people will call just as a, 'I don't know if this is what it is,'" said Duffy, "because a lot of the things they're experiencing are all things all parents experience. It's more about how it's affecting your functioning day-to-day."

Duffy said it's important to reach out to someone who can help.

"The thing about this is it is treatable. Highly treatable."

Rose-Banks credits his wife for helping him through his postpartum battle and encouraged other dads not to feel ashamed about seeking help from loved ones and support groups.

The father said it was the best thing for his family -- especially his little girl.

"She's the greatest thing that's ever happened to me.

"Don't be afraid to ask for help. It doesn't make you weak. It doesn't make you any less of a man."

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