Raising awareness of mental health issues in new fathers
A new born brings about a lot of change in one’s life. The road to fatherhood can spark a lot of joy and excitement in the person (and couple), while also igniting a lot of anxieties and stress. It is very common for fathers to experience a combination of these emotions as they make the transition into parenthood.
The mother’s mental health is often given a spotlight, while paternal mental health is not mentioned as often. The reason for this may result from the fact that men tend to self-manage any issues rather than consulting with professionals. They often increase time spent at work, dismiss negative emotions and avoid family and people. This brings us to the importance of keeping in touch with professionals as a couple throughout the pregnancy, as well as after the birth. This provides both the father and the mother, a space to share their experience through their transition.
Professionals are becoming increasingly aware that when a traumatic delivery is witnessed, some fathers will experience a sense of powerlessness and even intense fear. One must not forget that the father is also present during the birth and will ultimately feel its after-effects too, whether positive or negative.
Raise awareness! Let’s shift the conversation to both mother and father. Don’t just ask how mum is doing but ask dad too!
What are the signs of poor paternal mental health?
Anxiety and worry about behaviours and whether one is being a good parent (therefore a lack of confidence), are common signs. Feelings of detachment and irritability may also be experienced, along with feeling tired or run down.
What can be done to help and support fathers?
- Raise awareness! Let’s shift the conversation to both mother and father. Don’t just ask how mum is doing but ask dad too.
- Encourage them to open up about how they are feeling, either to a friend/family member or more importantly, to a professional.
- Remind them that they are not the only fathers to be experiencing such emotions. Reassuring them they are not alone.
New fathers are encouraged to:
- Embrace fatherhood and participate in child care
- Share their experiences and emotions with someone they feel comfortable with.
- Refuel with a healthy diet and maintain activity levels
- Continue or find a healthy outlet for stress
- Remain connected with friends
It is important to note that a family will function as a system, therefore taking care of the father’s mental health, will take care of the mother’s, and also the children’s wellbeing. Fathers who are depressed will often engage less with their children and have more relationship difficulties. Therefore, treating mental illness in fathers will ultimately improve the children’s well-being.
Article written by Laila Raway, Mental Health Recovery Officer.