International Fathers’ Mental Health Day is a relatively new concept and was co-founded in 2016 by Mark Williams (UK) and Dr Daniel Singley (USA). Both are fathers who had faced difficulties after the birth of their children and wanted to increase awareness and recognition of struggling fathers.

Whilst the challenges faced when becoming parents is often discussed, little focus is on the challenges that fathers may experience specifically. There are various resources available to help mothers with postnatal depression, for example, but there are little avenues for new fathers.

PANDAS state that approximately 10% of fathers experience perinatal mental illness. In addition, 25-50% of fathers will experience perinatal anxiety or depression when the mother also has a perinatal mental illness. This signifies the importance of developing support and awareness for fathers.

Factors and Symptoms

There are many different factors that can impact a fathers’ mental health and wellbeing including a lack of support, both social and emotional, stress, lack of sleep, meeting expectations and adjusting to new routines and parenthood in general. Often, men must return quickly to work following the birth of their child, particularly as current paternity leave in the UK only allows for 2 weeks leave. This does not allow enough time for bonding with a new baby. Due to men typically having to return to the “norm” after the birth of their baby, i.e. return to work, their wellbeing can be overlooked. This is one of the reasons we extended the paternity leave available at Maxwell Hodge to 6 weeks to enable new fathers to adjust, bond, provide support to their partner and deal with any other caring responsibilities.

Tommy’s (2017) explore a range of symptoms that may be experienced by men suffering from parental depression, which includes:

  • Feeling sad and hopeless.
  • Constant exhaustion or numbness.
  • Feeling unable to cope.
  • Feeling guilty for not being happy or for not coping.
  • Worrying that you don’t love your baby enough.
  • Being easily irritated.
  • Difficulties with food (e.g. binge eating, not wanting to eat or being unable to eat).
  • Lack of interest in your partner and/or baby.
  • Anxiety and/or panic attacks.
  • Finding it difficult to make decisions.

Advice and Support

Generally, there is stigma surrounding men’s mental health and statistically men are less likely to seek help, but the important thing is to recognise that you need help and are aware of the resources available.

Seek guidance from:

Importantly, speak to a loved one, friend or professional about any difficulties you are experiencing – you are not alone and there is support available.