(Photo from: https://www.communityreachcenter.org/blog/fathers-and-mental-health-measures/)
Fathers play an important role in building up confidence, health and overall development in children. There are also studies that show how a father’s involvement in the perinatal period and the first year from the child’s birth helps them to be more ready for school, and develop overall better social and learning skills.
Fathers’ mental health is often neglected due to social expectations about masculinity and therefore, creating an invisible barrier for fathers to be fully involved in the child’s early development.
Here are a few ways to better support a fathers’ mental health:
1. Recognise the importance of mental wellbeing for fathers
(Photo from: https://theconversation.com/childrens-well-being-goes-hand-in-hand-with-their-dads-mental-health-102347)
Accordingly to Jama Network, one in 10 fathers suffer from paternal postpartum depression (PPD) and up to 16 percent of fathers suffer from anxiety disorder during the perinatal period.
It is tough to recognise a father who suffers from PPD or anxiety disorder. Similar to women, men tend to mask their emotional symptoms which includes increase in anger, irritability and isolation. On top of emotional symptoms one might also exhibit physical symptoms such as headache, muscle complaints and gastrointestinal issues.
By recognising such symptoms and seeking help from a medical professional can drastically aid in combating depression at an early stage.
2. Connect father with a support network
(Photo from: https://mensgroup.com/father-support-groups/)
It is crucial to let fathers know that they need and deserve support, especially new dads and dads struggling with mental health issues, relationship issues, or working multiple jobs.
Fathers often end up relying on their partner for all their social and intimacy needs, which ultimately backfires when their partner is unable to meet all those needs. Because of this, it is important to proactively connect dads with a fuller network of support. Studies found that fathers are usually more comfortable with informal support, so suggest encouraging dads to engage with online groups or connect with other friends who are also fathers and understand what they are going through.
3. Build confidence
(Photo from: https://newmiddleclassdad.com/more-confident-dad/)
One way to boost a father’s confidence is to recommend them to do as much as possible with their baby: soothe them to sleep, burp them, read them books, bathe them, take them on errands, etc. The more activities fathers do with their newborn, the more comfortable they will feel.
Similarly, educating dads on babies’ developmental milestones—cognitive, motor, social and emotional—can help dads understand the importance of their interactions. They will then be more likely to get involved knowing this.
4. Support the father-partner relationship
(Photo from: https://www.verywellmind.com/can-couples-app-improve-your-relationship-4069950)
Healthy communication between partners leads to a healthy relationship. Parents can develop healthy communication skills by engaging in two weekly meetings: One to discuss their relationship and what they can do to help one another feel emotionally supported; and one to go over the upcoming week and allocate responsibilities, including building in time for self-care and, if they’re a couple, for their relationship.
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