With Father's Day approaching this weekend, the team here at Snooze HQ have decided its time we started talking a little more about the role of dads, and how their mental health needs a little air time too. So much great work has been done (and more still needs to be done) to raise awareness of the importance of maternal mental health, but when it comes to dads we're sadly lacking a little. Whether its society's views on what a dad 'should' talk about or what we perceive dads to be 'able' to cope with, the fact remains that lots of new dads and dads-to-be are struggling emotionally. Resources are out there to support families, but much of the focus tends to fall on mum- and while we're not for one second disputing the real need for this, what we do believe is that there are a lot of dads who need to be able to access help too. With this in mind, we've been chatting campaigner to Mark Williams, who has shared some insight into how we can start focusing on protecting dad's emotional wellbeing ahead of International Father's Mental Health Day next week.
Mark Williams is a keynote speaker, author and International campaigner. In 2004 he himself experienced depression and suffered in silence for years until a breakdown, which ultimately led to the work he does today. He founded International Fathers Mental Health Day and the #Howareyoudad campaign to make sure all parents are having support for the whole family.
Mark has spoken on television and radio stations around the world and works with Dr Jane Hanley who have both published articles on Fathers Mental Health together. Mark was awarded Inspirational father of the year and local hero at the Pride of Britain Awards in 2012 and was invited to meet The Royal Family on World Mental Health Day in 2016.
You can read more about Mark here:
We asked Mark his thoughts on dads and emotional wellbeing
Please take a moment to read, and if you know someone who may benefit from Mark's advice please do pass this post on.
Can you tell us a little about the work that you do and why you feel it's an important topic for discussion?
"I founded International Fathers Mental Health Day in 2016 which takes place every Monday after Fathers day. Coming from a personal perspective and after talking to hundreds of dads about their struggles with mental health, I am now a campaigner, author and keynote speaker on the importance of fathers mental health. I personally believe by supporting all parents during the antenatal and postnatal period it has far better outcomes for the whole family.
As we know, the biggest killer in men in the UK is suicide and fatherhood pressures are much more than twenty years ago with higher expectations and roles of being the bread winner now changing."
What tips would you give to fathers to be as they prepare for the birth of their child birth?
"Prepare and ask questions with your health visitor and other professionals on perinatal mental health. Make sure your own mental health is being looked after and research positive coping skills like mindfulness and relaxation techniques as this is important.
There are some great books out there now and online resources like DaddyNatal or Commando Dads. I know now that I was totally unprepared for the transition of fatherhood and really struggled for a number of reasons after my son Ethan was born in 2004."
What tips would you give to new fathers with regards to their new parenting role?
"Make sure you know the what the role of fatherhood is and entails, and what is needed for your family.
The role of father has changed in recent times and with more stay at home dads and single dads than ever before in the UK, its vital you engage with other fathers whether online or with any groups in your area. If there isn't it may be worth setting one up yourself as it so important to be around people during this time.
If you have a past history of anxiety, depression or have previous post traumatic stress disorders please look for extra support."
Can you share links and information on support groups that new dads can access?
"Yes. The biggest network for fathers in the UK is the Dads Network which has online and resources of support. It also has great resources which will help sign post you to the support you may need if you're struggling to bond with your baby.
There are more resources out there now like Dads Pad, Dads Matter, Fatherhood Institute, Dads in Mind, Dads Can Cymru, Fathers Network Scotland, Black Dope Dads. If you're struggling with your mental health please look for Chasing the stigma which is a database of what's in your area."
How can families best support new dads?
Its simple- make sure you ask them "How are you doing?" as we know one in ten dads will suffer depression in the postnatal period due to many reasons- whether it's from a pervious history of anxiety, depression or trauma, lack of sleep, money worries, unexpected pregnancy, relationship difficulties and even looking after a loved one with postnatal depression.
Also, remember that PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can result following either witnessing or experiencing a life threatening event- which in some birth experiences can happen to all parents.