The Other Half: Perinatal Mental Health Services for Dads & Partners´╗┐

By Rochelle Kaikai, MSW, RSW
www.rootedthistlecounselling.com
Serving Kitchener & Ontario

Parenthood is a transformative experience involving many twists and turns. When parents are tasked with caring for little ones, they often go through a period of turbulence as they adjust to the changes. Suddenly they must put their own needs aside and prioritize the needs of the baby. Ordinary tasks such as hygiene, eating well, doing the laundry, and getting a full night of sleep often become difficult to achieve. This may leave parents feeling disoriented and disconnected from who they once were. Feelings of disorientation are not exclusive to either moms or dads. Both parents are faced with change that may make them more vulnerable to loss of identity, stress, and even the development of a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD). 

In the past, much of the research about perinatal mental health focused on birthing moms. We now know that dads, partners, and non-birthing parents are also at risk of developing a PMAD. Postpartum Support International states 1 in 10 dads develop postpartum depression and approximately 18% develop an anxiety disorder in the perinatal period. It is likely these numbers are even higher, as many attempt to cope in silence. This information is not widely shared or known, leaving dads and partners vulnerable to stigma and reduced access to support. 

It is important we as a collective open up the conversation about perinatal mental health to include all parents. Parents who feel supported and seen are better able to access resources in the community to assist them in navigating this vulnerable stage of life. Although the experiences of dads and moms are not the same, the common thread of disorientation in the perinatal period binds them together. Mental health services that focus on the family as a unit are critical. Adjusting to change is difficult for all parents. Each member of the family deserves space to process this change and reorient themselves. 

Rooted Thistle Counselling is committed to offering mental health services to dads, moms, and partners in all stages of parenthood. Dads and partners can access both individual and group therapy services with Rooted Thistle Counselling. We recognize the importance of feeling seen and understood and believe this important work happens through connection. Although parenthood can be disorienting at times, it presents moms and dads with a unique opportunity to expand aspects of their identity and uncover resiliency they did not know they had. If you or someone you know is looking for support, please pass along our information. Together we can keep the conversation going. 

Roundtable with Minister Carolyn Bennett

Last week we had the great pleasure and privilege to meet with Minister Carolyn Bennett and MP Tim Louis to discuss the crisis and inequity of funding and support for Perinatal Mental Health. Grassroots non-profits like Together are often not considered for funding at the Federal level and conversations like this one, matter IMMENSELY.

We spoke candidly about how grassroots organizations like Together are key to understanding the needs of the communities in which we work. Furthermore, we addressed how peer support work is a must have (not a nice to have) to ensure support for racialized parents, newcomer parents, parents with disabilities, and 2SLGBTQIA+ families. These parent groups need more dedicated supports as they are at higher risk of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders just for being who they are.

While creating national standards and educating health professionals to better understand perinatal mental illness are good building blocks, peer support is the foundation for those blocks.

We will continue advocate for the support of unseen parental experiences and to push forward to ensure that peer support work is seen as key to Perinatal Mental Health. If you’d like to support the work of Together, consider supporting our upcoming Climb.

Our colleagues Olivia Scobie, Christine Cunningham, Fadhilah Balogun, and Sophie Zivku were rallying alongside us in this important conversation. Together, we will increase support systems, educate health care providers, and build a village so that no parent is left behind.

Photos by Only1AndyWright Photography