It is estimated that 10% of new fathers experience paternal postpartum depression following the birth of their child up until their first birthday. 20th June 2022 marks International Father’s Mental Health Day, a day dedicated to acknowledging and raising awareness of the mental health challenges fathers face. As a charity supporting fathers and people experiencing mental health challenges across Scotland, Support in Mind Scotland wants to raise awareness about mental health in fathers and provide information on resources available.

Paternal Mental Health

Now that we are starting to recognise the difficulty many mothers face with their postnatal mental health, we are also able to shine a light on the mental health experiences of new fathers. Scottish Government estimated that 50% of women who have postnatal depression have partners that would consider themselves to have depressive symptomology.

New fathers often do not feel comfortable acknowledging or discussing their paternal postpartum mental health. This can be due to fathers not wanting to overshadow the support their partner requires in the postpartum period, combined with outdated societal views of men not being considered strong when talking about their feelings.

However, this can lead to mental health issues becoming more prevalent for fathers. 45% of fathers say they are affected by postnatal stress and anxiety, which means it’s important we recognise the mental health difficulties both new parents face and ensure there is support available for mothers and fathers.

So, How Are You, Dad?

A survey of 564 dads in Scotland undertaken by Fathers Network Scotland discovered that only 16% of new dads were asked about their own mental health during antenatal appointments. This eye-opening statistic revealed just how overlooked new fathers can be and prompted action by Fathers Network Scotland. The ‘How Are You Dad?’ pilot was created to support the wellbeing of fathers and their family units. The charity provides training for midwives and health visitors in the North Lanarkshire, Greater Glasgow, Lothian, Tayside and Fife.

Fathers Network Scotland hopes to raise awareness of the mental health problems new fathers face and that through accessing support  will benefit fathers and their families.

Mental Health and Money Resources for Fathers

Mental Health and Money Advice

Mental Health and Money Advice by Support in Mind Scotland can perform benefit checks, as there may be welfare benefits available which you could be entitled to. For example, if you have a mental health condition that impacts your ability to work you may be entitled to claim Employment Support Allowance, Personal Independence Payment or if you are in one of the pilot areas, Adult Disability Payment.

Fathers Network Scotland

Fathers Network Scotland is a charity committed to improving children’s lives through the involvement of fathers. The charity trains professionals who have involvement with families such as early years practitioners, social workers and family support workers. They are also in the process of developing an app which will use geolocation to point men in the direction of local, relevant mental health services.

Parent Club

Parent Club is an online resource endorsed by the Scottish Government that offers advice to parents through all the different stages of family life. The advice and tips offered are by parents and experts who have first-hand experience of the challenges parenthood can bring.

Parent Club has a particular advice section dedicated specifically to mental health support for new dads.

Mental Health Tips for New Dads

For many new fathers accessing regular support can be difficult, particularly for people living in rural areas of Scotland. Here is some guidance and practical ways that you can encourage positive mental health as a new father:

  • Find ways to connect with your baby

While mothers tend to have more contact with babies in the early stage of their lives, it is important that fathers are also involved in bonding with their child. Techniques such as skin-to-skin contact is an excellent way to form a bond with your child as it can help to soothe them and get them used to your voice.

  • Lean on family and friends

The early days of fatherhood are an overwhelming time which is why if support from friends and family is available, it’s important to try and lean on this as much as possible and not feel guilty for doing so. As the saying goes, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’, and it’s important to take opportunities for time to yourself, with your partner or to rest.

  • Prioritise exercise

Exercise is proven to be effective in encouraging good mental health as it releases feel-good hormones such as oxytocin. Taking yourself and your family out for a walk in the fresh air will not only help to blow away the cobwebs but will also promote good sleep in the evening for both you and your baby.

  • Talk about your feelings

Most importantly, it is essential that you talk about your feelings with your partner or a health care professional as they will help to ground you and provide reassurance. Professionals can signpost you to the best available support or help you manage at home. Talking to other parents can also be beneficial as they will have experience of the challenges of becoming a new dad and may have some tips to help you further