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Men at greater risk of depression if their dad suffered too

Wednesday 22nd November 2017
Dads who fail to seek help for their mental health could be putting their sons at risk of similar problems, new research suggests. Image: monkeybusinessimages via iStock
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Men who suffer from depression but who fail to seek professional help for their mental health needs could be putting their sons at risk of experiencing similar mental struggles in the future, according to new research.

A study carried out by doctors based at University College London led to the discovery that fathers can be just as influential as mothers in determining the likelihood of a child suffering mental illness throughout their lives.

Traditionally, the focus has usually been on mothers, as they typically spend more time with children. But the new research has found that fathers' mental health can have just as strong an impact on a male child's future mental state.

Some 14,000 families were involved in the study altogether, which saw both children and parents required to fill in questionnaires about their emotions and general mental wellbeing.

A clear link was identified between fathers who reported depressive symptoms and their sons having signs of the same feelings, from as early as the age of 13 to 14. There was a similar link between depressed mothers and their children, but this was more expected at the outset of the study.

Its authors recognised that the link between fathers and sons may be due to a stigma still surrounding male mental health in many cases, meaning mental health support workers have a key role to play in opening up conversations around this subject.

Dr Gemma Lewis, lead author of the study, commented: "If you're a father who hasn't sought treatment for your depression, it could have an impact on your child. We hope that our findings could encourage men who experience depression to speak to their doctor about it."

Head of parents' services at the charity YoungMinds Jo Hardy added: "It's important to remember that having depression does not need to stop you from being a great parent."

Instead, she advised that being open about mental health and seeking professional treatment and support were the most vital steps to take.

Written by Angela Newbury

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