Fathers’ mental health ‘finally acknowledged’, says charity

By Julie Griffiths on 21 December 2018 NHS England Expectant fathers Perinatal Mental Health

Mental health checks for expectant and new fathers is a ‘landmark move’, says charity and think-tank The Fatherhood Institute.

Under NHS England’s long-term plan for perinatal mental health, announced earlier this month, the partners of women whose mental health is poor are to be offered their own mental health checks and signposted to professional support. 

Adrienne Burgess, joint CEO of the Fatherhood Institute, said the policy announcement was the first time that the NHS has formally acknowledged fathers’ powerful impact on mother and infant.

‘Expectant and new parents’ mental health conditions are closely intertwined; and when he is supportive she is less likely to become ill and more likely to recover quickly.  

‘Furthermore, poor paternal mental health puts his partner and infant at risk; and in some cases, couple-relationship problems are the main issue and the greatest benefits will flow from addressing the couple’s relationship, rather than simply the mother’s mental health,’ she said.

The support that dads can expect may include peer-support, behavioural couples therapy sessions and other family and parenting interventions in specialist community perinatal mental health settings or referred to a leading psychological talking therapy programme.

NHS England said that assessments and support for partners will be part of a much wider expansion of perinatal mental health services that will be announced in the NHS Long Term Plan, which will be accompanied by additional funding.
The policy was informed by evidence on fathers' impact on maternal and infant health collated in The Fatherhood Institute’s recent Nuffield-Foundation-funded report Who’s the bloke in the room?