Dads groups miss out on mental health funding

Scottish dads charity claims specific needs of new dads have been overlooked for funding

Man with head in hands leaning on the edge of a cot containing a baby


A new fund to support new parents’ mental health has failed to direct any cash to dads groups. Scots charity Fathers Network Scotland has branded the decision ‘shocking’.

The Scottish Government set up a £1 million fund designed to pay for help for new parents struggling with mental health. But it seems none of the money has gone to groups dedicated solely to helping dads. Despite evidence that fathers suffer distinct mental health challenges.

Many of the respondents to our latest survey of working dads reported mental health challenges during lockdown. And mental health charities have seen an increase in demand from dads this year.

Specific help

David Devenney, Director of Fathers Network Scotland, told the Edinburgh Evening News, “What’s very clear is that money has only gone to frontline services supporting mums and families in a catch-all way. Of course we need to help mums and families as a whole but we need specific help targeted to dads too as they are all too often ignored by services. It’s frankly shocking. We can’t just disregard all the research that shows we need to actively engage with dads.

“At this time fraught with challenges if we don’t focus on specific dads work, we are missing the mark. We need a more robust system to encourage men to talk about their mental health through that journey from when baby is born to becoming a dad.

“We also believe there is a strong relation between suicide in men and that period. But it’s not recorded. That’s staggering. If we don’t record it how can we help tackle it?

“Supporting mums with their mental health is vital but we need parity of care and support for parents. There is a crying need to look at how resources are planned and delivered in a way that recognises the impact of that period after baby is born on dads mental health. It affects dad, mum and baby.”

Mental health

Fathers Network Scotland set up a ‘How Are You Dad’ project training health professionals to ask dads about mental health. From that they found a quarter of fathers said they feel like they can’t cope and around half sought help. But more than 80% of those who looked for professional help found it hard to access services.

Mr Devenney added: “Suicide is the biggest cause of death of men under the age of 50 in Scotland and we know that fathers mental health is at increased risk of harm during the perinatal period. For dads who are already facing acute challenges of being a new parent, the months ahead are going to be so hard if we go into another lockdown. We will see a spike in suicides and some of these will be dads. If we don’t help them sooner, we are creating massive problems down the line.”

Post natal depression

Women are far more likely to experience post natal depression. However a growing body of evidence is identifying the problem in men too. Often the mental health of new mothers and fathers is linked.

Thomas Lynch, service manager at another Edinburgh charity, Dads Rock, said they have seen a massive increase in calls for help from dads: “When there’s a new baby that can be a real crisis point for the whole family. But health visitors are so stretched, so they often focus on mums.

“We have a WhatsApp group and the amount of people contacting us now is like nothing we have seen before. Dads want help and they want to talk. We also hear a lot from mums worried about their partners.

“The message from families is clear, dads need help with their mental health now. We need to fund services geared to dads, as well as mums.”

Year of the dad

The Scottish Government insists some of the cash in the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Fund has gone to groups that may have a wider remit but which offer help to dads.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to improving the mental health of mothers, fathers, carers and infants, supported by £50 million of investment in perinatal and infant mental health services over four years. The Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Fund, launched in May 2020, provides up to £1 million annually for Third Sector organisations across Scotland. Four of the 15 funded organisations provide support to fathers, while many of the others help families as a whole.”

In 2016 Fathers Network Scotland ran Year of the Dad in Scotland. It was a year long programme of ‘celebration, insight and collaboration’. The Scottish Government partnered on that project.

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