Understanding Paternal Mental Health

Our Understanding Paternal Mental Health training works towards the following outcomes:

  • An increased understanding by practitioners working within perinatal services including NHS, Third Sector and Local Authority support staff of fathers’ mental health, and the impact this has on children and families.
  • All dads being asked about their mental health.
  • More mums and dads becoming aware of the importance of their mental health including postnatal paternal depression anxiety and stress & post-traumatic stress disorder in men.
  • More staff knowing where dads can access support.
  • More dads accessing mental health support.

Background 

We all want Scotland to be the best place for children to grow up. But while the evidence tells us just how important the role of a dad is to the life chances of any child, we now know that at least one in ten new dads suffer from post-natal depression, with up to 45% of dads affected by post-natal stress and anxiety.

If a dad’s mental health is not recognised and supported during the perinatal period, then his ability to engage supportively both as a father and as a partner may be at risk, limiting positive outcomes for his child, partner and family.

In this blog, FNS hears from dads who have suffered postnatal depression - and turns the spotlight on a relatively common condition that still carries a stigma.

Fathers Network Scotland and the Fatherhood Institute surveyed almost 2,000 new fathers from across the UK including 564 in Scotland. Although almost all of the new fathers were present in maternity services at each stage, our research shows that large numbers felt ignored before, during, and after the birth of their child, even though their involvement is central to infant and maternal well-being and is desired by mothers. The 'Understanding Paternal Mental Health' training encourages and supports perinatal practitioners to better engage with dads.

What to Expect

In this workshop we will explore:

  • Signs and symptoms: Fathers and paternal depression, post-natal anxiety, stress and PTSD
  • The incidence and impact on families and children
  • The importance of early assessment of paternal mental health
  • Services that support dads with mental health problems
  • How we can mainstream ‘dad-inclusive’ practice

"It was really good, I am amazed at how on line training can be so interactive and enlightening."

- training participant from University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire.

The Impact on Families

A father whose first child at a hospital before we trained, told us the difference he noticed after we had trained perinatal staff, after the birth of his second child:

"I’m a father of two boys. My eldest, Joshua, is five and his younger brother, Zachary, is 18 months old.

My wife, Mandy, delivered naturally in both occasions. The first labour was more complex as she had to go into theatre shortly after for a minor procedure. During the labour I felt like a bit of a spare part, and the delivering midwife gave me little jobs to do, I think more to make me feel part of things rather than being any real help to anyone.

We only had about 20 minutes or so together after Joshua arrived before Mandy was taken to theatre, and we were told to expect her back within an hour or so - this became just under three hours and I was literally left holding the baby - I was in relative peace, which suited me just fine.

Mandy returned from theatre to the assessment area (essentially a 6-bed bay) just before 7pm and our respective parents arrived shortly after. Sensing we wanted to have some time just the three of us, they each left after an half an hour or so. No sooner had they left I was told by the nurse-in-charge that I would have to leave as visiting had ended. This caught us both by surprise – Mandy was still numb from the waist down and hadn’t slept properly for the 72 hours so was in floods of tears. I gave up protesting at 8.45pm and went home.

The following day I arrived at the hospital at 9.30am, half an hour before visiting would start, or so I thought....

As she was still in the assessment area, visiting didn’t start at 10am is it did on the Maternity Ward and it would be 2pm before I would be allowed in. I put a brave face on it while I spoke to Mandy but as soon as the call ended I burst into tears – this isn’t really my style and I don’t know if it was tiredness, worry, impatience, or a blend of these but I was a mess. I finally was allowed in at 2pm, shortly after they had been moved to the Maternity Ward and we finally had some time just the three of us.

Our second child arrived in 2018 and Zach’s birth was much more straightforward (easy for me to say, I know).

We arrived at the hospital at 8.30pm and the initial examination confirmed that Mandy was already fully dilated – it was all systems go! Mandy was unbelievably calm from start to finish, cracking one-liners right up until Zach arrived just after 11pm. After Zach was cleaned up and Mandy was given a check over, the midwives left us to spend some time together. As the Unit was relatively quiet we were told we could stay where we were, and they brought us food and even blankets for me to spend the night. I could bring Zach over to feed when he cried, I could fetch Mandy clothes or drinks and I was able to make the experience much less stressful for her. We were discharged the following morning and could take Zach back to meet his big brother.

My wife would be the first to tell you that she felt well supported in both labours. For me, it was night and day – Joshua’s birth was undoubtedly more complicated and this obviously affected the experience we both had. A more important factor in my mind was the individual personalities involved – with Zach’s birth, I was made to feel welcome and was able to support Mandy in the way that she needed at the time. All three of us benefited from that change and look back on the birth much more fondly as a result."  

Find Out More

To find out more about our 'Understanding Paternal Mental Health' training, our Programme Lead Chris Miezitis can be reached at:

[email protected]