Father's Day: Looking After Your Mental Health As A New Father
If this is your first Father's Day or if you have recently found out you are expecting a little one, have you considered the importance of looking after your mental health as a new father?
Becoming a parent is one of the most life-changing, transitional events a person can experience. So much changes so quickly, and the responsibility for looking after a newborn can be overwhelming. Everything is new. Unknown. Weighty.
Support is often limited. Resources are largely untapped. And many people still don’t recognise the impact of a birth on men - they are predominantly overlooked. Quite apart from supporting their partners through perinatal mental ill-health, fathers often don’t consider their own mental health, let alone seek support if they are struggling.
There is growing evidence that suggests fathers and non-birthing partners need significant mental health support during the perinatal period. Indeed, around 10% of fathers experience mental health challenges during the first year after the birth of their child.
So, where to begin?
According to the Movember Foundation Charity, ‘new dads with no good friends…struggled more with the inevitable stress brought on by parenthood.’
We cannot underline enough how important it is to stay connected to people you can be honest with. It could be a brother, best friend, close work colleague or all three. People who ask how you are… and who aren’t afraid of the response. People who have got your back and who would drop anything for you.
In spite of the demands and time constraints of having a newborn around, it is vital to keep those connections alive - even if it’s a WhatsApp message like ‘It’s been really difficult this week - not sure I’m coping very well’ or grabbing a quick coffee or beer before or after work. Let these people come into the mess of your life - they want to be there for you and it could keep you from spiralling.
Mark Williams, who leads Father’s Reaching Out, a charity all about fatherhood and mental health says, ‘when all new parents are supported for their mental health, it has far better outcomes for the whole family and the child’s development.’
Another way to look after your mental health as a new father is to wise up on helpful resources. It could be a book, social media channel (check out fathers_mentalhealth and mffonline_ on Instagram), podcast or meditation app. Work out what fits your personality type and get searching!
Instagram page of Mark Williams, Father's Mental Health
Often good resources help give perspective to the problems we’re facing and the emotions we’re feeling; they can offer practical solutions and a sense of hope; they can point us in the right direction to receive help and guidance.
New Fathers, Mental Health and Digital Communication was released in February this year and focuses on the role of digital media as a part of a holistic approach to coping with poor mental health. It considers ‘selective forms of disconnection’ as well as opportunities to seek online support or information. If you’re finding it hard to recognise your struggles as legitimate and reach out for help - this book is for you.
Coming soon! DAD by Music, Football, Fatherhood has reached its crowdfunding target and will be published later this year. It is a collection of stories from an incredibly diverse group of men. The book includes 'powerful stories around widowhood, stillbirth, miscarriage, post-natal depression, divorce, childbirth trauma, work-life balance, shared parental leave, gay fatherhood and surrogacy, raising a child with a disability, blended families, black fatherhood, raising a mixed-race child, being a single dad, faith and fatherhood and raising a child with autism.'
Daddy Blues - from the man who founded International Fathers Mental Health Day and the #howareyoudad campaign, Mark Williams invites you into his battle with severe post-natal depression after the birth of his child. The raw notes of this deeply personal story will resonate with many fathers who have found themselves in uncharted territory after a traumatic birthing experience.
If you feel like you might need more tailored support or advice, use the Hub of Hope, run by Chasing the Stigma, to search for mental health charities in your local area, or ones that can help with a specific problem. There is always someone out there who can help.
International Father’s Mental Health Day - June 21st
It is recognised that fathers are playing a greater role in the practicalities of raising and bonding with a child - a dramatic change over the last 50 years even. The demands on a father can feel overwhelming - the need to balance a demanding work life whilst remaining supportive emotionally and practically to all that is going on at home. And don’t even think about throwing in sleepless nights too!
This year, on June 21st, watch out for a series of blogs, press releases and resources shared by charities, support groups, health professionals, and families who have experienced the impact of poor mental health in fathers. And follow #DadsMHDay.
There will be a Facebook Live session at 3pm, hosted by Dr Mayers from Bournemouth University on the International Fathers’ Mental Health Day Facebook page. Dr Mayers said, ‘At the very least, we hope to raise awareness about fathers’ mental health and I really hope that we can encourage more men to come forward to seek help. The next challenge will be to ensure that we have the services and support networks to meet that demand.’
Whatever your circumstances - remember, you’re not alone. You’re not an isolated individual. There is hope and help.