Becoming a ‘Healthy Dad’

22 August 2017

With Father’s Day looming we turn our attention to the challenge of becoming a new father and we look at a new initiative called the Healthy Dads Project, which aims to support the mental health of men during the transition to fatherhood.

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Right now, one in seven new fathers experiences high levels of psychological distress and as many as one in ten experience depression or anxiety. Often distressed fathers remain unidentified and unsupported due to both a reluctance to seek help for themselves and low levels of community understanding that the transition to parenthood is a difficult period for fathers, as well as mothers.

The project is hoping to both increase understanding of stress and distress in new fathers and encourage new fathers to take action to manage their mental health.

This work is being informed by research commissioned by beyondblue into men’s experiences of psychological distress in the perinatal period.

Informed by the findings of the Healthy Dads research, three projects are underway to provide men with the knowledge, tools and support to stay resilient during the transition to fatherhood, these are:

Dadvice

Led by beyondblue, Dadvice is a four-part web series that follows a group of new dads on their journey into fatherhood. New dads are encouraged to visit www.dadvice.org.au where they can watch full episodes, complete a quiz to check how they’re coping, and access further advice and support. They can also sign up to receive the Dadvice email series, timed to coincide with common early parenthood challenges.

SMS4dads

Led by the University of Newcastle, ‘SMS4dads’ is a text messaging service which aims to keep in touch with dads through their smartphone before and after the birth of their baby. The text messages contain tips, information, and links to services for new dads. The text messages will help dads connect with their baby, help him be a support for his partner, and remind him to take care of himself too. Dads’ mood will be tracked during the project, and contact made with those who indicate they may be distressed and require assistance. More information is available at www.sms4dads.com

Strengthening parenting partnerships

beyondblue is investing in an action research project that uses a digital intervention to strengthen parenting partnerships in the perinatal period and improves mental health outcomes for couples. A major protective factor for mental health during the perinatal period is a mutually supportive partner relationship. An evidence base is emerging around the benefits of specifically targeting the ‘co-parenting’ aspect of a couple’s relationship in order to improve coping and support mental health. Parenting partnerships (or co-parenting) are about how parents work together to meet the needs of their children. It includes how partners negotiate parenting roles and responsibilities, as well as the extent to which partners engage in supportive behaviours that affirm the contribution of the other. In particular, this project will investigate how digital interventions can overcome the barriers to engaging fathers in face-to-face programs, and how fathers’ parenting self-efficacy can be improved by the intervention.

Do you know someone who could benefit from this initiative? Share how to become a Healthy Dad. Learn more www.beyondblue.org.au/about-us/about-our-work/our-work-with-men/healthy-dads