Inside the NICU Mental health

Mental health and NICU parents

This blog post was written by Drs S. Grigoriadis, C. Brown, and B. Rosen. Thank you so much for sharing this valuable information on our blog!

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Mothers often experience postpartum depression or anxiety after the birth of their baby.  Although many health care providers are now better at identifying when symptoms interfere with mothering, many mothers still suffer in silence.  Having a baby in the NICU can be a very stressful experience and is one of many risk factors for postpartum depressive or anxiety disorders.

If you are a mother who is having difficulty (you feel sad or irritable, cannot sleep, feel very tired or overwhelmed, don’t eat because you are not hungry or eat too much, cannot concentrate, are not enjoying the baby, or worry a lot about them or feel life is not worth living) please see your family physician or health care provider for a referral to the Women’s Mood and Anxiety Clinic: Reproductive Transitions. We are here to help.  Ontario’s Best Start program is also a great resource for more information.

Let’s not forget about fathers …

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Fatherhood brings about new joyful experiences, but it can also be a stressful time that is not talked about.  Fathers can be tired, not sure what to do, or bothered about things in life that a new baby brings, such as increased work and financial responsibilities. Sometimes the stress turns into anger or sadness or anxiety.  Men in general are more likely to express these emotions by avoiding situations and conversations, engaging in physical activity, or distracting themselves with things like work. It may even lead to increased alcohol use or loud and harmful reactions. Fathers are also particularly vulnerable to experiencing mental health troubles compared to men in general, including depression, anxiety and alcohol and drug use, to name a few.  As many men have difficulty recognizing the signs of mental illness, and are often hesitant to seek help from health care providers, this means that many fathers also suffer in silence. If you are a father and have concerns about your own mental health, you’re not alone.

For more information about fathers’ mental health, please visit the Fathers’ Mental Health Network.

If you or a father you know is having trouble, contact your family physician for a referral to the Fathers’ Mental Health Consultation Service in Toronto (416-530-6154) or Sunnybrook’s Mood and Anxiety Clinic.

Another helpful resource is  ConnexOntario1-866-531-2600), which is a professional service funded by the Ontario Government. It provides free and confidential health services information for people experiencing problems with alcohol and drugs, mental illness or gambling. This online and telephone service provides live answers to your questions 24/7.

Drs. Grigoriadis and Brown are psychiatrists in the Women’s Mood and Anxiety Clinic: Reproductive Transitions, and Dr. Rosen is a psychiatry resident at the University of Toronto.  

Photo used under Creative Commons licence; credit https://www.flickr.com/photos/mole-volio/

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Kate Robson