Released on: 16 June 2021
With Father’s Day (20th June) and International Fathers’ Mental Health Day (21st June) approaching, NCT is calling for more recognition of new dads’ mental health issues.
The charity has recently set up Parents in Mind: Partners, an innovative project in St Helens, Merseyside. It’s to support everyone who has an active role raising a child under two, including dads, mums’ partners or other family members.
Volunteers are trained as peer supporters. Peer supporters have experienced perinatal mental health issues themselves and are there to help others in similar situations.
Barrie Palfry, Haydock, St Helens, one of the volunteer peer supporters, said: “It’s not easy being a new father, especially if you’re working all day, then looking after the baby when you get home. It’s exhausting but dads often feel they have to get on with things and, if you’ve got a problem, bottle it up.
“I now realise I had post-natal depression. No one was helping me because I was a bloke and expected to get on with it, ‘don’t be soft’. I could feel myself going downhill and felt useless, couldn’t bond with my daughter, couldn’t function. I even felt suicidal at one point.
“Someone at work noticed how low I was and gave me the opportunity to get everything off my chest. Someone listened to me when I was at my lowest and so I’d like to give something back. I understand how it feels to get that low.”
NCT research¹ previously found that more than 1 in 3 new fathers (38%) were concerned about their mental health. And that almost three quarters (73%) of dads were worried about their partner’s mental health. With the recent pandemic, it’s unlikely that these figures have improved.
Catherine Briars, Parents in Mind Project Manager said: “We want to highlight how common new dads’ mental health problems are and encourage men not to suffer in silence. Becoming a parent is an emotional rollercoaster, bringing with it significant mental health challenges. We want all parents to feel safe sharing these difficulties - knowing that you are ‘not alone’ can bring so much relief.
“The dads in the group have been awe-inspiring: honest, courageous and resilient and will be great supporters of local fathers. It’s important we sow the seeds of this work more widely, and develop support for more parents across the UK.”
NCT highlights fathers’ mental health issues on its antenatal courses and at reunion sessions. It also runs groups across the UK for dads to attend, for example its ‘Bumps and Babies’ groups and Walk and Talk sessions, run by volunteers and free to attend.
¹ During 2013-2014, NCT’s Research and Evaluation Department conducted a mixed-methods longitudinal research study of first-time mothers’ and fathers’ experiences and attitudes during the first two years following the birth of their baby. In total, 296 first-time fathers responded to a questionnaire when their babies were on average eight months old.