International Fathers Mental Health Day – Monday 21 June 2021

I am Emma Humes, a PhD student, Graduate Teaching Assistant and Health Visitor, leading the research, Dads and Depression, at Edge Hill University. The Dads and Depression study hopes to break the stigma surrounding men’s mental health by unravelling the stories of fathers who experience depression during their partner’s pregnancy or up to two years after the birth of their child.

Mum’s experiences of depression are well documented because peri-natal/post-natal depression in mothers has been studied for many years. In most cases, mothers are asked about their mental health routinely throughout their pregnancy and after the birth of their baby. However, although, one in ten fathers experience mental illness during their partners pregnancy or after the birth of a baby, dads are not routinely asked about their own mental health. This could be in part because we do not know much about dad’s experiences of dealing with peri-natal depression.

As a health visitor, I have worked with a lot of families and have witnessed many dads struggling with their mental health. It’s crucial that we start to expand the knowledge base around this issue. If either parent is struggling with their mental health, it can have a serious impact on the family. Developmentally, children can suffer if parents have a mental health issue that is not addressed, and I have seen the impact this can have on families first-hand. So, it’s very important that we take a holistic approach and look at the family as a whole.

Recruitment is now underway for the research project, which is expected to complete in autumn 2022. Dads and Depression is now seeking participants aged 16 or over whose partner is currently pregnant or has a baby under two years old.

Men are suffering and struggling but often it’s hard to encourage them to open up, so I’m hoping that this project will encourage more men to come forward and, in doing so, inform new approaches to supporting fathers with depression. I would like to say a big thank you to all of those who have responded so far but we need more dads to come forward!

A key focus will be recruiting from a wide range of backgrounds. My hope is to widen the voice of fathers from all backgrounds. Encouraging men to take that first step and talk about their experiences isn’t going to be easy but it is important that we do it. I am offering a number of ways for dads to get involved. They can participate via telephone, video call or whatsapp messaging, whatever they are most comfortable with.

If you are interested in taking part in this study and would like to be contacted to discuss the research further, please visit the Dads and Depression website for more information.

I would also like to thank the organisers of International Father’s Mental Health Day and all of those involved with the #howareyoudad movement for highlighting the importance of this issue, working towards removing the stigma around father’s mental health and campaigning for professionals to ask, ‘how are you dad”.

Edge Hill’s Faculty of Health, Social Care & Medicine is one of the largest providers of health and social care education in the North West of England. With a range of Nursing and Medical programmes, students can take advantage of top facilities, including the new Clinical Skills and Simulation Centre, with human patient simulators which can imitate a range of symptoms.