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‘It’s a family issue’: PADA Kaiārahi and Kaitautoko open up about new dad’s mental health

Reported by Brittany Keogh, Published by Stuff April 22 2023

Every year, thousands of new dads experience perinatal depression and anxiety. But because of a lack of specialised support services for men, it can be hard for them to get help.

PADA Kaitautoko Luke Tiller and PADA Kaiārahi Leon Hohepa and Brendon Smith talk to Brittany Keogh in this report.

When Luke Tiller​ holds baby daughter Ava in his arms he expects a wave of emotions to roll through him. Instead, he feels “foggy”.

Bonding with Ava hasn’t come as naturally as it did with older sister Sophie a few years earlier. It’s just exhaustion and stress, he reasons with himself.

He’s finding the transition from working a high-flying job in national security in Wellington to being a full-time stay-at-home dad in the Wairarapa difficult.

Ava, Luke and Sophie Tiller at their Carterton property. /Stuff

He stops enjoying things he would usually enjoy. His moods are up and down. Friends and family reassure him this is all normal. He’s just adjusting to life with two little ones. He’ll be OK.

It’s only many months later that he realises he’s not OK. He’s depressed. But when Tiller sees a psychiatrist, the doctor echoes the denials that have been running through his head for months. It can’t be postnatal depression because “guys that don’t get that”, he’s told.

The problem is that’s, plainly, wrong.

Also featured in the article are PADA Kaiārahi, Leon Hohepa and Brendon Smith:

PADA Kaiārahi Brendon Smith /Stuff, Lawrence Smith

“Ultimately, Tiller, Smith and Hohepa all say for any systemic changes to really make a difference to the perinatal mental health of dads, there needs to be a cultural shift.

As Hohepa puts it: “It’s not a women’s issue. It’s a family issue. Mothers are extremely important. Fathers are extremely important. Until we see the consequences of not having the good that comes out of each role, we’re not going to get anywhere fast”.

PADA Kaiārahi Leon Hohepa with his tamariki /Stuff, Monique Ford