fathers and mental health
Being a father can be demanding. Postnatal paternal mental health is still overlooked, with many new fathers feeling ashamed to talk openly about their mental health challenges. That may be due to fathers not wanting to overshadow the support their partner needs in the postpartum period, combined with outdated societal views that men are not considered strong enough to talk about their feelings.
However, this can lead to mental health issues becoming more prevalent for fathers. 45% of fathers say they are affected by postnatal stress and anxiety. With challenges brought by the cost of living crisis and families struggling to provide the best upbringing conditions for their children, it is important we recognise the mental health difficulties both new parents face and ensure there is support available for mothers and fathers.
Tips for fathers
For many fathers accessing regular support can be difficult, particularly for people living in rural areas of Scotland. Here is some guidance and practical ways that you can encourage positive mental health as a father.
- Find ways to connect with your child
It is important for new fathers to be involved in bonding with their baby. While mothers tend to have more contact with babies in the early stage of their lives, it is more difficult for a new father, often unsure of how to behave and care for their newborn. Techniques such as skin-to-skin contact are an excellent way to form a bond with your child as they can help to soothe them and get them used to your voice. Set aside regular individual time to engage in age-appropriate and enjoyable activities for your child. That could include playing games, reading books, walking, or just talking and listening. Spending quality time helps create meaningful connections and strengthens the bond.
- Lean on family and friends
For a new father, the early days of fatherhood are an overwhelming time which is why if support from friends and family is available, it’s important to try and lean on this as much as possible and not feel guilty for doing so. As the saying goes, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’, and it’s important to take opportunities for time to yourself, with your partner or to rest. Build a support network of family, friends and other fathers who can provide understanding, empathy and companionship. Share your experiences, concerns and joys with them. Connecting with other fathers through support groups or online communities can provide valuable insights, shared experiences and a safe space to talk. See the list of support organisations at the bottom of this page.
- Prioritise self-care
Look after your physical and emotional wellbeing. Make time for activities you enjoy, exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet and make sure you get enough sleep. Exercise has been shown to promote good mental health by releasing feel-good hormones such as oxytocin. Taking a walk in the fresh air with your family will not only help to blow away the cobwebs but will also promote a good night’s sleep for you and your child.
- Talk about your feelings and communicate openly
Talk openly and honestly about your feelings and emotions with your partner, family or close friends. Expressing your thoughts and concerns can help you feel understood and relieve emotional distress. Talk honestly with your child and create a safe space where you and your child can express thoughts, feelings and concerns without judgement. Active and empathetic listening builds trust and strengthens your relationship.
- Seek support when needed
Most importantly, it is essential that you talk about your feelings with a healthcare professional, counsellor or therapist, as they will help to ground you and provide reassurance. Professionals can signpost you to the best available support or help you manage the challenges coming with fatherhood. Your mental health significantly impacts your ability to bond with a child and directly influences the quality of your relationship with your partner. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Your wellbeing and asking for help are important in caring for yourself and your family. Contact our Advice and Support Service today, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0808 801051.
Other support available
Fathers Network Scotland
A charity committed to improving children’s lives through the involvement of fathers.
An online resource endorsed by the Scottish Government that offers advice to parents through all the different stages of family life.
An organisation dedicated to helping fathers in Scotland through group work, workshops, 1:1 and peer support.
Part of the Circle range of support services for fathers and fathers-to-be in the Edinburgh city region.
An organisation providing support for single parents, including single fathers.
Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.
Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at email@example.com or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.