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Postpartum Depression -- in Men?!

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On paper, Sam Roweis had it all -- a great new job in an amazing new city, a brilliant professional reputation in computer science, and a young set of twins. Yet he plunged to his death from the 16th floor balcony of his New York City apartment earlier this week, to the shock and dismay of his friends and colleagues.

sad man

Vivian Manning-Schaffel: According to an article in The National Post, Roweis and his wife, Meredith Goldwasser, had been enduring some tough times while caring for their newborn twins, a boy and a girl born prematurely a year ago. Neighbors say Roweis and his wife had been fighting incessantly, and he must have jumped during a lull in an argument.

We know that postpartum depression can cause suicidal behavior in new mothers. But could Roweis have been a victim of male postpartum depression? Dr. Michelle Golland, clinical psychologist and momlogic contributor, says yes, and it has a name. It's called Paternal Postnatal Depression and, according to studies, it affects more than 1,000 men per day.

"Interestingly, men's hormones change both during and after a pregnancy. Their testosterone levels go down and their estrogen levels go up. We don't really know why the hormones shift in men, but researchers speculate it is nature's way of helping men bond with the baby, and it helps them be less aggressive at a critical time in the mother's and child's life," says Dr. Golland. "Fathers can also experience negative emotions toward the baby, similar to mothers with PPD. They may want to get out of the house and feel very disconnected from the child."

She feels, in Roweis's case, that he may have faced "a tragic 'perfect storm' of emotional factors contributing to his feelings of depression, helplessness, and hopelessness. This was a couple coping with ill twins, marital stress, a new job, and a new city in the time leading up to his suicide."

A source cited in the New York Daily News says that Roweis, a brilliant NYU professor, seemed like an upbeat guy. We'll never know if Roweis ever considered getting help, but Dr. Golland says that men sometimes avoid seeking mental health services because they feel it's "going out of their comfort zone in regards to how to cope with stress in their life."

That said, Dr. Golland says it's imperative we learn to recognize depression and anxiety issues in our husbands and partners, and encourage them to get the help they need.

Keep on the lookout for these symptoms and risk factors of male PPD:

  • Men with a history of depression
  • Wife is diagnosed with postpartum depression
  • Lack of support
  • Sick or challenging baby
  • Financial concerns and pressure.

The more people are aware of male PPD, the more depressed dads will get the help they need to get through it. Spread the word!

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