Together with collaborators in the USA and Australia, Dr Andrew Mayers is promoting Monday June 18 as International Fathers’ Mental Health Day.
“Around 10 per cent of fathers can experience mental health problems in the first year following the birth of their child,” he said. “My research and professional work shows that fathers are not getting the support they need.”
He said the causes of mental health problems, such as postnatal depression, are ‘every bit as relevant for dads as they are for mums.’
“Often, the perception is that postnatal depression is hormonal, so could not possibly affect fathers,” he said. “But hormones only play a small part. Environmental and social factors, such as social support, poverty, relationships changes, education, and stigma, are a much better predictor. These equally apply to dads.”
He believes men find it much harder to seek support for emotional problems, often because of stigma and societal perceptions. “But the impact of mental illness for men can be catastrophic. The biggest killer of men under 45 is suicide and the main factor in suicide is poor mental health.”
He co-founded International Fathers’ Mental Health Day two years ago with Dr Daniel Singley, a psychologist based in San Diego. Since then, the event has grown each year.
“We need to think family when it comes to perinatal mental care and remember that if dad is the only one struggling that will impact on the whole family if unsupported,” he said.
Throughout the day, there will be a series of blogs, stories, press releases and resources shared by charities, support groups, health professionals, and families who have experienced the impact of poor mental health in fathers. Key events will include a Facebook Live session at 3pm, hosted by Dr Mayers from Bournemouth University via the International Fathers’ Mental Health Day Facebook page.
“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," said Dr Mayers. "The next challenge will be to ensure that we have the services and support networks to meet that demand.”
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