Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Paper

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

John Holmberg

Second Advisor

Tracy Vozar

Third Advisor

Stephanie Miller


Stigma, Paternal perinatal psychopathology, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, NICU


Stigma or the belief that mental health difficulties stem from a personal weakness, moral failing, or poor choices and will subject one to shame, embarrassment, scrutiny, victimization, oppression, and ostracization is a reason people choose to avoid, not to obtain or fully engage in mental health treatments despite their demonstrated effectiveness (Corrigan, 2004;Vogel et al., 2006). Gender differences have been found in experiences of stigma; for example, men were found to self-stigmatize to justify avoiding counseling to a greater degree than women (Judd et al., 2008). As such, stigma has been identified as a gender-salient variable that serves as a barrier to help-seeking that is proximal to attitudes toward counseling engagement (Vogel et al., 2011). Fathers of children born in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) are at increased risk of mental health problems throughout the perinatal period (Ireland, et al., 2016), and men, in general, may have increased susceptibility to self-stigma (Vogel, et al., 2007). Although NICU Dads have been shown to benefit from mental health support (Ocampo et al., 2021), there is a dearth of research related to their experiences with mental health treatments or the degree to which stigma is a barrier for them. Underutilization of treatment for this population unnecessarily maintains risks for fathers, partners, and children. The aim of this paper is to articulate the role of stigma and other barriers to paternal engagement in mental health supports and explore potential strategies for reducing stigma as a barrier to treatment for fathers of NICU babies.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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