Published: June 21, 2020 | Updated: June 21, 2020

‘We need to do a lot more’ says leading mental health campaigner as spotlight falls on fathers

By Andrew Diprose, editor

Are you OK dad?

Four words that have extra significance this year.

Father’s Day falls on Sunday.

The following day, Monday June 22, is the fourth International Father’s Mental Health Day (IFMHD 2020).

Founded by Mark Williams from the UK and Dr Daniel Singley from the USA, it has grown into a multi-national event, raising awareness about the mental health of fathers.

The UK team includes Dr Andrew Mayers, Principal Academic at Bournemouth University and Patron of Dorset Mind.

Dr Mayers, who is a Governor of Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust, is also a leading perinatal mental health campaigner and educator.

Perinatal mental health problems occur during pregnancy or in the first year following the birth of a child.

Perinatal mental illness affects up to 20 per cent of new and expectant mums and covers a wide range of conditions.

But all too often, husbands and partners are overlooked when it comes to providing support and information on mental health.

Evidence suggests that the risk factors, and impact, of perinatal mental health are reduced when mums have a supportive partner.

Monday will see a series of blogs, stories, press releases and resources shared by charities, support groups, health professionals, and families who have experienced the impact of poor mental health in fathers.

The aim is to raise awareness but also contribute to real change.

Partly influenced by UK campaigns for fathers’ mental health, in January 2019 NHS England announced that, for the very first time, some fathers would now be screened for their mental health.

However, with NHS resources focused on fighting Covid-19, any progress to date has been put on hold.

IFMHD 2020 will feature thoughts about the impact on families across the perinatal period, including fathers.

It will also act as a springboard for a new set of campaigns.

Mark Williams, who heads the #Howareyoudad campaign which aims to remind all health professionals to ask dad about his mental health, said: “The biggest killer in men under 50 is suicide and many fathers don’t get asked about their mental health during the antenatal and postnatal period.

“The day is to raise awareness and educate professionals and family members that dads struggle as well as mums during this time.

“Many men have a past history of anxiety, depression and trauma before becoming a parent.

“By supporting all parents it has a far better outcomes for everyone including the development of the child.”

Dr Mayers, pictured left, said “The success we have seen in recent years is encouraging, but we cannot stop there.

“We need to see comprehensive changes across the UK, not just England.

“We also need to ensure that the changes that are made will make a real difference.

“We will hold governments and NHS providers to account to see that promises are kept.

“We also need to reinforce that we are not looking at fathers in isolation, or at the expense of mothers.

“Both Mark and I will continue the work we have always done to look after mums too.

“This is about the entire family.”

  • Read more on Dr Mayers’ web page about fathers’ mental health here.