When we think about men suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), we automatically think of those that have fought in a war, or are associated with the armed forces. A surprising number of men, however, suffer PTSD after witnessing the birth of their child.
Looking back to my own experience, the feelings that I experienced at the birth of my son still affect me today. When I think about my wife being pregnant again I have strong feelings of anxiety. I even get anxious when looking at new born babies as it brings back the panic that I had on that day.
We must remember that a traumatic birth is a horrific experience for the father observing it, too.
It’s common for women to be treated for PTSD at the birth and rightly so. We must remember, though, that a traumatic birth is a horrific experience for the father observing it, too. I remember having my first ever panic attack at the birth of my son. I really didn’t know what was happening. I was terrified that both my wife and baby could die. I was later to find out in 2013 that I would have been diagnosed with PTSD at the birth today. The nightmares and anxieties after the labour were horrible.
The feelings of helplessness, intense fear and horror stayed with me long after the birth.
Mark now works raising awareness of the issues he faced.
Men suffering PTSD can experience suicidal thoughts and sink into a deep depression. They may suffer repeated flashbacks of the birth, reliving the fear and panic they felt. They may experience a breakdown.
Often they won’t talk about their feelings and they try to bury them, hoping that they will go away. As the memories keep resurfacing they struggle to deal with them, leading to intense feelings of anger and despair.
Unless they talk to someone, they can feel very isolated. They may experience mood swings, depression and have difficulties sleeping, eating and concentrating, some turn to coping strategies such as drink drugs to try and block out their horrible and vivid memories within their minds.
The impact of PTSD and Post-natal depression on the family unit can be devastating. Many men struggle to hold things together and many families split up. I have met men that are still suffering mentally many years after the birth of their child due to not seeking help at the time.
It is important to encourage them not to suffer in silence, to speak about how they felt at the birth. Whether you are a health professional, a family member or just a friend, look out for the signs that a new father may be suffering from PTSD. I suffered in silence for years and only when I had a breakdown in 2011 I seeked help. It was the first road to my recovery.
I am still under mental health services and was diagnosed with ADHD two days before my forty-first birthday. It's something that I've had all my life and can cause depression, anxiety, tick disorder, OCD and other issues. I suffered a lot in my life and didn't know why I felt different to my friends.
But in the last five years have turned a negative into a positive. I have raised awareness on national television and radio, am the author of a second book coming out this year, Inspirational father of the year and local hero at the Pride of Britain Awards, have spoken at nearly 100 conferences and work as a trainer for my company. I have written in magazines and professional publications about perinatal mental health and this year I will be travelling around Austraila, New Zealand, U.S. and Canada speaking and doing workshops.
I am also proud to have helped dads and families along the way. I am campaigning to make sure dads and mums don't go through this illness with no support. I also was shortlisted at the mind media awards for my support group Fathers Reaching Out. Trust me sharing a story helps others. You can find me on Twitter @MarkWilliamsROW
If I hadn't had got the help, I dare to think what would have happened to me. Do me one thing today, get the help and talk after all you can share your story like me too. Remember the quicker the help, the quicker the recovery.