AS many as one in 10 Scottish fathers is struck down by postnatal depression, according to a leading expert in the condition.
The estimate by Wendy Jessiman, a lecturer at Stirling University, means as many as 5,000 Scottish men are diagnosed annually.
The situation has become so severe that Scottish midwives are now offering new fathers questionnaires to help identify if they are at risk.
Postnatal depression – a condition associated for many years only with mothers – can last for months or years and, in the most extreme cases, can result in suicide and murder of children.
Miss Jessiman, who lectures in midwifery studies, said: “Between three and ten percent of men suffer from depression after the birth of their children.
“There are a number of potential triggers and risk factors. The most common trigger is the huge life change a baby brings with it.
“A new baby also brings with it a lot of pressure. Fathers think there are expectations to keep performing at work, and then play a role in their child’s life too.”
Miss Jessiman, who is also an expert in perinatal mental health, added: “Fathers are just as important as mothers in their baby’s development, and it is extremely important that that a relationship is developed quickly between father and child.
“It is vital that we are able to help those suffering from postnatal depression. Left it can really impact the whole family, especially the baby. Parents need to bond with their new baby to help their development.”
One young Scottish father told how postnatal depression following the birth of his third child cost him his marriage and job.
The father-of-three, who asked not to be named, said: “My whole life had changed. I had been able to do whatever I wanted and then bam – I have two kids.
“I had a pretty good job before, but we started to spend more money than we had coming in and I just couldn’t cope with it all. I ended up losing my job because of it.
“After a couple of months I managed to pull myself out of it, but then a year or so later my wife found out she was pregnant again.
“This was a real shock as we hadn’t been expecting it at all. When the third was born it hit me again, and even worse this time. I just couldn’t be around any of the kids, I didn’t want to know them.
“It’s horrible to think of now, but that’s just the way it was. You just want them to be quiet and you don’t want to have to deal with everything. So in the end I left.
“I moved in with friends and it took me over a year before I could start contacting them. Now when I think about it I can’t believe I was like that, but you just don’t know what to do.”
The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, a questionnaire which has traditionally been offered to new mums, is now being offered by midwives to some fathers in a bid to help diagnose those suffering. NHS Lothian is one of the boards known to be offering the service in Scotland.
Wallace House, a specialist centre in Edinburgh which helps those suffering from postnatal depression said they had seen a recent rise in the number of fathers reaching out.
A spokesman for the centre, which is part funded by the Church of Scotland, said: “Dads with postnatal depression have definitely been increasing in the last few years.
“It’s not that more people have it, it’s just that people realise it now. It was only recognised recently, and so not much research or work has been done on it. Hopefully bringing to light the extent of the issue will make people more aware it.”