Today’s Observer has a remarkably vicious article about post-natal depression in fathers that is quite breathtaking in both its ignorance and its venom:
“One notices more talk of postnatal depression in fathers. I use the word “talk” advisedly, scientific proof still being in short supply. Were hormonal levels tested? Was postpartum bruising measured? How about the emergence of a human head in what – in deference to what might be your leisurely Sunday breakfast – I will refer to as the front-bottom area? In fact, was there anything at all to suggest that the subject had, at any point, given birth, thus making sense of adding the term “postnatal” to depression?”
Firstly, journalist Barbara Ellen clearly doesn’t know the difference between postnatal (after a child has been born) and postpartum (after giving birth). It is equally as possible to describe postnatal depression in fathers as it is to describe men, or indeed, women, having a postnatal breakfast.
The statement about “scientific proof still being in short supply” is just odd considering she then goes on to cite a study of 8,431 fathers published in the Lancet on postnatal depresison.
Ellen is also convinced that postnatal depression is “directly related to the physical act of pregnancy and childbirth”.
It is surely the case that the act of being pregnant and giving birth does increase the risk of postpartum depression owing to hormonal changes, but we also know, for example, that disruption to sleep patterns is also a risk factor – something that could equally affect both partners.
This part, though, is just amazingly and needlessly cruel:
I would have been more concerned that the mothers in question were having to put up with such exhausting narcissists as partners – men incapable of hiding their sulky self-absorption, even while being watched by researchers for a period of, wait for it, three minutes. Even serial killer Ted Bundy managed to look “normal” for longer than that.
Sadly, that’s not the only insult thrown in to the mix and just to top it off, the piece finishes on a logical fallacy / insult combo – enter the false dichotomy applied to human suffering:
It was a long, hard road for womankind, getting postnatal depression recognised as a condition, and also to receive medical attention or even routine sympathy. It seems to me that saying men can also get it is just cheapening this achievement.
Mental health is important for all and we don’t cheapen anyone else’s suffering by recognising the pain of others.