Fathers' mental health
All too often, husbands and partners are overlooked when it comes to providing support and information on mental health. Evidence suggests that the risk factors, and impact, of perinatal mental health are reduced when mums have a supportive partner. Furthermore, fathers can develop 'perinatal mental health' problems (either as a result of their spouse's/partner's illness or independently). There is often little guidance available for men to understand the causes, risk factors, treatments and prognosis of perinatal mental illness, quite apart from what support they can give to their partner. Fathers also need information on how to improve their own mental health. On this page, you will find some resources that seek to address the gaps in support.
This great Metro article examines fathers' mental health very well. It features my good friend Mark Williams (the UK's leading campaigner for fathers' mental health), Helen Birch (a survivor of bereavement by suicide) and myself. More recently, HuffPost UK included this article on postnatal depression in fathers, featuring me with some of the groups that I work with (such as NCT Charity). You can also read the blog that I wrote for The Conversation (UK) here, suggested that dads can get postnatal depression. The Daily Telegraph published this story features Mark and myself (along with Dr Jane Barlow). The Guardian has also featured two great stories about about fathers, with several quotes from me(Story 1 Story 2). We also spoke on BBC Radio 5 Live about this important subject.
Mark and I presented a session on fathers at the Unite CPHVA Annual Professional Health Visitor Conference in October 2018. At the event, we recorded this podcast with I am a Health Visitor.
You might also like to watch this You Tube video featuring Mark Williams , a father of twins (who describes what happened when the birth went very wrong), and myself. You can discover more about Mark below. This BBC Radio Solent interview focused on my work with fathers who have witnessed birth trauma.
Mark and I featured in this podcast for The Really Cast (It couldn't happen to a nicer... Dad).
Announced December 2018: NHS England announce major support for fathers' mental health. Some great return for all our campaigning! Fathers will also be included in the NHS Long Term Plan announced in January 2019. I will play a role in developing that for NHS England though my role on the Expert Reference Group with PMH Families.
Every year. the day after Father's Day globally, we mark International Fathers' Mental Health Day (#DadsMHDay on Twitter). In 2018 (June 18th) the event was co-ordinated in the UK by Mark Williams and me, while Dr Daniel Singley and Dr David Levine led from USA. Dr Bronwyn Leigh led from Australia. The day was an overwhelming success. We shared stories, blogs, and resources - as well as interact across social media. On Twitter alone, the hashtag #DadsMHDay achieved over 15 million impressions, with over 300 tweets from 1000 participants. The Facebook Live session (with me interviewing a 'new' dad) has attracted over 2000 views. Check out my blog for IFMHD2018.
IFMHD2019 (June 17th) was also very busy. Mark Williams was part of a conference in Blackpool (organised by Better Start Blackpool). You can catch the Twitter conversation for that via #TalkingDads. The Twitter activity for #DadsMHDay was around 8 million impressions for that day alone. Our USA partner, Postpartum Support International shared this blog that I wrote for them.
We are running three studies at Bournemouth University currently: one focusing on asking dads how support they got (and need) when dealing with their wife/partner's (perinatal) mental illness; the second examining support fathers need for their own mental health; while the third focuses on birth trauma.
What help do fathers need in supporting their wife/partner when she develops mental health problems
This study examines how much information and support fathers get when their wife/partner develops mental health problems during pregnancy or in the first two years after the baby is born. The study is now completed. We aim to report (and publish) the findings soon.
Fathers can develop mental health problems (independently) in the perinatal period
This study examines how much support fathers get for their own mental health problems during their wife/partner’s pregnancy or after the baby is born. The study is now completed. We aim to report (and publish) the findings soon.
Fathers' experience of birth trauma
The impact of birth trauma on mental health (including the risk for post-traumatic stress disorder) can be devastating. Research with with mothers who have had a traumatic birth is still in it's infancy. However, until now, nothing has been done with fathers (who have witnessed that trauma). In 2017, we undertook some preliminary research at Bournemouth University. Initial data were presented at the #HopeNov20 event in Parliament on November 20th 2017 and a birth trauma conference in east London on January 5th 2018. We now need more data to get an clearer overview, with the aim to publish these findings soon. To take part in that research, click here.
Groups providing support for fathers
It has been my pleasure to work with my great friend Mark over the last few years. Mark is the UK's leading advocate for fathers' mental health. Mark's wife encountered mental illness not long after the birth of their son, Ethan. Mark had little support, and feared that he could not talk to anyone about Michelle's illness (such is the stigma). Without support, Mark's own mental health suffered too. Now, armed with that experience, Mark has runs campaigns, writes blogs, and provides support to fathers experiencing their mental health difficulties. His book Daddy Blues is now available too.
Mark is heading the #Howareyoudad campaign - aiming to remind all health professionals to ask dad about his mental health.
Birth Trauma Network
The Bluebell charity already provides excellent postnatal depression services in the Bristol area. Following some successful funding, Bluebell now also offer support to local fathers, via Dads in Mind. The service includes the opportunity to talk directly to a father whose partner experienced postnatal depression. Services include providing support to fathers whose wife/partner is experiencing mental health challenges, and help for dads with their own mental health.
The inspirational Tony Crone draws on his own experiences to support dads when they have mental health problems in the perinatal period. A recent feature in the Daily Mail explored the work that Tony does (the article includes a contribution from me).
Ruth Eglin and Natalie Nuttall co-founded Smile Group in Cheshire, following their own encounter with postnatal depression. They felt that mums needed more support at this difficult time. Several (successful) years on, they now also provide support for dads.
The wonderful Forging Families provide resources, information and support across Sheffield for health and well-being in the perinatal period. As part of that, the run the great From Dads to Dads website.
The Dad Network has a group of 11,000 dads supporting one another, often talking about mental health. Check out their website for some great resources.
It can be a very scary time for a father to witness his partner/wife experience mental illness. It can be even more distressing when the mother is presenting with manic and/or psychotic symptoms. Action on Postpartum Psychosis provide some excellent resources to help partners. Expertly written, the resources have been developed in response to partners requesting help. You can access these resources here.