Educating health professionals about Men and Mood disorders
by Tina Juhl
January 17th 2007
last updated January 17th 2007
Education on Men and Mood Disorders
The field of men and mood disorders arising in relation to parenthood – or fathers and postnatal depression - is very new. Research on men’s psychological reactions to fatherhood has only really begun within the last ten years. At the same time men are becoming increasingly visible in areas like prenatal courses, childbirth and infancy. This means that professionals now have a much greater opportunity to involve fathers in their day-to-day work with families than was previously the case. The training-programme on men and mood disorders arising in relation to parenthood is designed to prepare professionals for working with fathers and especially to raise awareness and knowledge of the symptoms fathers may display. This will give all involved a better chance to implement (preventive and/or) helpful strategies when a father is (at risk of) suffering from mood disorders during this vital period of life - his own, his family’s and his newborn’s.
Men and Mood Disorders Arising in Relation to Parenthood
Few studies on fathers’ psychological transition to parenthood have focused on paternal depression: The existing ones frequently feature small sample-sizes and highly diverse methods of measurement. The most commonly used screening-tool for postnatal depression, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), has also been validated for men. For women it shows that approximately 10-14% of women are affected postpartum. Results from studies using the EPDS on fathers show the following prevalence: 4% in UK (8 weeks after birth), 4.8% in Portugal (12 weeks after birth) and 6.5% in Denmark (6 weeks after birth). These figures show the relevance of paying greater attention to this issue. This is particularly true considering the fact that men appear to be under-diagnosed for mental illness – meaning that it can be assumed that even more men suffer from postnatal depression than suggested by the prevalence listed here.
Why Educate Health Professionals?
Since the available knowledge on men and mood disorders arising in relation to fatherhood is very recent, many family-professionals are unaware of the possibility of fathers suffering from postnatal depression. It is essential to disperse this knowledge since in the long term untreated depression can have severe consequences not only for the father but also for his child and the whole family.
The goal is to promote the latest knowledge on men’s psychological reactions to fatherhood. This knowledge is to provide participants with a better platform for getting fathers involved through their day-to-day interactions with new families. This will improve general awareness of father’s needs, while the special focus on fathers and mood disorders will enhance knowledge of possible depressive reactions. By working with the topic of communication with men in the healthcare system participants will improve their skills and gain greater security in talking to men and fathers.
Contents of the Training Programme
• Men and fathers in the healthcare system
•A historical perspective on the development of fatherhood and fathers’ relation with their infants
• Depression in men and fathers
• Case stories• Results from a survey on fathers and mood disorders
• Day-to-day work with families - Involving fathers
• Communicating with men and fathers
•Questions and discussion
The evaluation presented here is based on the feedback from nurses and midwives working with families during pregnancy and after birth. They all participated in the training programme described above.
The evaluation was generally highly positive.
When assessing immediate payoff most of the participants mentioned, that it was informative, interesting and provided a lot of new knowledge. A few mentioned that there was not that much new information. Quotes: “It made me want to work in a way that focuses on the family as a whole, it has been very inspiring and increased my focus on fathers and their role” ; “This gave me many new ideas, the contents are highly relevant for everybody working with parents”.
Asked to evaluate the utility value of the training in relation to their day-to-day work with men many participants stated that they now focus more on involving fathers and want to address them for the sake of the whole family. The programme also heightened awareness of psychological reactions and symptoms and the importance of prevention. On a practical level they gained knowledge on how to involve fathers. Some also emphasized being able to pass on knowledge to students and new parents.
Finally the participants were also asked if there was anything else they might need in their work with men. Many mentioned a wish for common policies on involving fathers in their day-to-day work. On the subject of working-conditions some said that they needed more time to talk to fathers and wanted a greater presence of fathers in the various wards.
To sum up, the evaluation shows that educating professionals about men and mood disorders provides relevant (and often cutting-edge) knowledge, heightening participant-motivation to involve fathers and supplying the tools they need to talk to men and inspire an improvement of conditions for fathers in hospital wards related to pregnancy, birth and parenthood.