The first ever International Fathers’ Mental Health Day will take place on Monday 20th June 2016 (the day after Fathers’ Day) to raise awareness of postnatal depression (PND), antenatal anxiety and childbirth trauma experienced by men.
Mark Williams, who suffered all three after becoming a father and subsequently founded Fathers Reaching Out and Reaching Out Positive Mental Health explains: “Fathers, as well as mothers, can also experience mental illness at what should be one of life’s happiest times so it’s important to ensure that men talk about their feelings and recognise the symptoms as the quicker the help, the quicker the recovery. Health professionals also need to ensure that dads are given permission to open up about their feelings so they can stay healthy and support mums.”
Dr Andrew Mayers, a psychologist at Bournemouth University, is a mental health campaigner and educator. He specialises in perinatal mental health in his work across Dorset and nationally, including developing support for fathers.
Since working full time in the field, Mark has found the following:
1. Research suggests that at least 1 in 10 fathers suffer from Postnatal Depression (PND). This is more likely to be more as men tend to leave it until crisis point years later.
2. Fathers can experience antenatal anxiety and depression too.
3. Fathers tend to be diagnosed with clinical depression after the perinatal period so should also have the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) screening tool.
4. The rate of suicide among men aged 30 to 44 years increases around of time of becoming a father.
5. Men are not mentioned in the NICE guidelines (relating to the perinatal period) and often fall through the early prevention services net.
6. Fathers often suffer in silence and can use negative coping methods such as alcohol and drugs which can lead to anger and violence.
7. Around 2 in 3 fathers who should have received support are no longer together in the family unit
8. Fathers are the main source of support for the mother and children at this time and often feel the pressure of failing to live up to expectations.
9. Fathers can suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when they witness their loved one going through a difficult birth and experience feelings of hopelessness.
10. If only the father experiences mental illness, this puts a strain on the mother’s mental health and can lead to both partners becoming unwell.
11. A father who is unwell is more less likely to bond with his children.
12. Fathers with a history of mental illness are more likely to become unwell again due to the stress of becoming a father and looking after a partner with a perinatal mental illness.
13. Fathers who has conditions as ADHD, Asperger’s and Autism will struggle more in the labour room with their partners
14. Fathers who suffer from anxiety in the workplace should be supported during this time
15. We need to get to the root cause of illnesses and remember that the entire family needs support as if early prevention isn’t in place it will cost services more longer-term and further stretch their resources.
Mark says “I’ve spoken to fathers with bipolar, schizophrenia, clinical depression, anxiety and other mental health illness who have no support plan in place at this crucial time. We must bring everything together as if one piece of the jigsaw doesn’t fit, things can quickly go terribly wrong”
Thankfully, things are improving greatly in perinatal mental health for mothers but fatherhood has changed over the last decade so it’s vital that fathers are not left behind. It can take years for negative experiences to manifest themselves so by giving fathers an opportunity to discuss their feelings and offering support when required, this preventative approach will enable more families to enjoy the miracle of childbirth and go on to live happier and healthier lives.
Dr Mayers said “It is crucial that we get more mental health support for dads. We need to help provide resources to support their partners, should they experience mental illness during pregnancy and after their baby is born, and we need to ensure that dads protect their own mental health. Working with local charities such as Dorset Mind (for whom I am Patron), we developing services that we address this unmet need.”
Please support International Fathers’ Mental Health Day by sharing your thoughts and experiences using #IntFathersMHDay on social media
For more information please visit www.reachingoutpmh.co.uk
For national information, please contact Mark Williams on 07472 959889 or via @markwilliamsROW on Twitter
For local information, please contact Dr Andrew Mayers on 07749 201980 or via @DrAndyMayers on Twitter.