10 years of findings on the importance of fathers’
mental health in the perinatal period
Mark Williams – September 2020

INTRODUCTION | Mark Williams
Looking after an infant is often a challenge for both parents. It is increasingly recognised that postnatal depression and other perinatal mental illnesses and disorders can be experienced by men as well as women. We now understand that becoming a father and experiencing
fatherhood can be a stressful and isolating experience. It is quite possible that the increased pressures of fatherhood – which mean little sleep, extra responsibilities, greater financial challenges, and changes in relationships and lifestyles – will all affect the father’s mental health.

Research has shown that one in 10 new fathers suffer from postnatal depression, very similar to the figure for new mothers. Once education, universal assessment and screening processes are introduced, this figure will no doubt be higher – I believe that the figure for mothers has increased now that they are being routinely assessed, and this is supported by Wisner et al’s (2013) finding that almost 22% of women suffer from postnatal depression during the first year postpartum – thus highlighting the need for much more to be done to support fathers in the perinatal period.

Although it is still early days, there is already anecdotal evidence that the Covid-19 pandemic, and the resultant limitations imposed on ‘normal life’, have made paternal postnatal depression worse. As research increases around paternal mental health, we feel that we have sufficient evidence
to lead to a change in policies and protocols by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to include fathers’ mental health.

We want the WHO Commissioners to understand the importance of “Think Family”, to include and support all parents during the perinatal period.

We know that the Equality Act 201011 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society on the basis of their sex. This includes a duty on public authorities (which includes the NHS and related organisations) to “have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination…” when exercising their functions.

It cannot be emphasised enough that the biggest killer of men under 50 in the UK is suicide. Studies have shown that fathers with mental health problems during the perinatal period are up to 47 times more likely to be classed as a suicide risk than at any other time in their lives.

Surely now is the time to act and make a difference?

To read the whole report, please Click Here

The full report includes:

Preface | Professor Minesh Khashu
Introduction | Mark Williams
Summary and Key Recommendations
Types of perinatal mental illness | Dr Jane Hanley
Why fathers’ mental health is important | Mark Williams
The antenatal period
Engagement with healthcare professionals
Screening and assessment
Preparedness for fatherhood
Mental health experiences
Pressures from wider society
Lack of role models
Coping strategies
Support and support groups
Role of social media
Impact on child development
Cost to the nation
Conclusion | Mark Williams
Useful organisations in the UK