Dads in distress: Many new fathers are worried about their mental health

Released on: 17 June 2015

New research from NCT finds that more than a third of new dads are worried about their mental health

More than 1 in 3 new fathers (38%)* are concerned about their mental health, according to new research from NCT released to coincide with Father’s Day.

Caring for a baby can be challenging and it is now increasingly recognised that postnatal depression and other perinatal mental health issues can be experienced by men as well as women. The increased pressures of fatherhood, more financial responsibility, changes in relationships and lifestyle, combined with a lack of sleep and an increased workload at home, may all affect a new dad’s mental wellbeing.

Concern about their partner is another worry for new fathers. NCT found that almost three quarters (73%) of dads were worried about their partner’s mental health.

Mark Williams, founder of education and support group Dads Matter UK, whose mental health suffered after he became a dad said: “There are all sorts of reasons why men suffer mental health problems after the birth of a child. Some suffer from postnatal depression themselves whilst others get downcast because their partners have mental health troubles. I suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after seeing my wife’s distressing birth.”

Whatever the cause, NCT says it’s important that men are encouraged and supported to speak up about their experiences, if not to their partner, then to their family, friends or GP. The parent charity has information and tips on its website (www.nct.org.uk) to help men find the support they need.

Dr Sarah McMullen, Head of Research, NCT, said: “We recognise the huge impact having a baby can have on dads as well as mums. Perinatal mental health issues can affect men or women so raising awareness of the specific concerns and questions that dads-to-be or new dads have is crucial. Dads sometimes feel uncomfortable about opening up about their feelings but we would encourage them to do so and seek the support they need.”

The following suggestions might be useful to support positive mental wellbeing for all dads:

  • Share your feelings with people you trust. This could be your family or friends, a health professional or a counsellor.
  • Try to take some time for yourself by maintaining involvement in hobbies, exercise, or social activities, even an hour here or there can make a difference.
  • Take some exercise each day, like a walk with the buggy or swimming. Exercise can have a positive effect on mood and sense of wellbeing.
  • Although many new parents experience mood changes or feel down some of the time, you may find that feelings of anxiety or low mood persist. If you have concerns about your own or your partner’s mental health, it’s best to seek help from your GP who can help you to access support services.

More information is available at www.nct.org.uk/dads-PND

Dads Matter UK, a website offering education and support for dads with perinatal mental health issues will launch on Father’s Day, Sunday 21st June.

*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. To understand more about life as a new first-time parent, NCT invited men and women to complete online questionnaires at two time-points: one during their baby’s first year (6-9 months), the other one year later (18-21 months), following eight focus groups to inform the survey design. In total, 869 first-time mothers and 296 first-time fathers responded in full to the first questionnaire when their babies were on average eight months old.