It’s not only women who experience challenges to their mental health during or after the arrival of a new baby – dads can also be significantly affected.
The journey to becoming a dad will differ for everyone, whether they have gone through adoption, assisted fertility, or not. This transition to parenthood, individually as parents and collectively as a couple, is where many are learning to co-parent for the first time, and many changes occur. Workplaces can be nurturing and positive environments that recognise and support each person’s journey by offering flexible working hours, working from home, and mental health screening and support during the perinatal period. Dr Jan Smith (pictured below) is a chartered psychologist specialising in workplace mental health. Here, she has some tips for new working dads to consider and some signs to look out for when it comes to mental health.
Talk to colleagues, friends, and family about what helped them transition to becoming a working dad. Most importantly, talk to your partner or co-parent about how you both would like your role as parents and what this could involve.
If your organisation isn’t supportive to enable you to have the time you want with your family, ensure you prioritise this when away from work, so you feel included in family life.
Although your life will be different with a little person now, it’s important that you also have time to do some things you enjoy. Engage in activities that are fulfilling and where you don’t feel under pressure.
Having support from other dads will be helpful, where you feel able to share the joys and difficulties that you might face.
Dads tend to bond differently with their children compared to mums. Think about what kind of dad you want to be and the types of behaviours that align with this.
It’s not just mum’s who experience mental health difficulties during the perinatal period. Dads, too, are at risk, whether that’s due to sleep deprivation, changes in their relationships, or new responsibilities. Some signs to look out for are:
One in ten dads-to-be will become depressed during their partner’s pregnancy. In the first year of becoming a dad, their risk of developing depression doubles compared to the general population. It could be:
However, be aware when fears and worries worsen or are experienced for a long time, for example, having panic attacks or not feeling able to calm.
It undoubtedly will feel stressful at times to become a dad. If you’re able, try to identify the source of your stress and talk to someone about how you are feeling. If you feel like you don’t want to be around others and are isolating from social situations, work, and family, let those who reach in with offers of support help you. There might feel like some days are harder to cope with than others. You don’t have to do this on your own. Many organisations are out there to support dads during their transition to fatherhood and beyond.
Becoming a dad can be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. For some, it can feel overwhelming, isolating, and a time when they are unsure of themselves. Coupled with sleep deprivation and changes in relationships, dad’s mental health can deteriorate. There are many individual strategies to optimise this during the perinatal period and ways organisations can be proactive and supportive of this transition. Ultimately, you don’t need to do this alone; reach out when you need support, and reach into others who also are becoming new dads.