New research by PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety And Depression Australia) reveals the mixed emotions many first-time fathers and fathers-to-be feel. Eighty-five per cent of the 4,400 Australian men who completed the survey over a year-long period (until December 2022) felt anxious, while 70 per cent admitted to feeling sad or tearful.
“One in 10 calls to the PANDA Helpline are made by men, who on average engage with the service seven times via email, text message or phone call. Parenthood is a shared experience between mums and dads, but it’s often overlooked that new dads feel the same uncertainty with changing responsibilities,” PANDA CEO Julie Borninkhof says. The most common symptoms of perinatal depression and anxiety experienced by men surveyed were:
- feeling isolated (87 per cent)
- lacking confidence in their parenting skills (67 per cent) and,
- panic attacks (61%).
The data demonstrates just how common symptoms of perinatal depression and anxiety are among fathers, and the importance of normalising their experience. “Equal recognition of mental health experiences among fathers is important for encouraging them to seek support, so they can be more present for their partner and their baby,” says Ms Borninkhof.
Where men can get help for perinatal depression and anxiety
SMS4dads, a free service that sends text messages with ideas, tips, advice, and information straight to their phones. “SMS4dads came about because fathers told us that the health system doesn’t provide services that speak directly to dads,” said Richard Fletcher PhD, Associate Professor, Fathers and Families Research Program, School of Health Sciences University of Newcastle. “SMS4dads sends brief text messages that support men in their role as fathers and increases awareness of their influence on baby’s brain development. It also provides tips on working collaboratively with their partner and checks in on their wellbeing and offers professional support if needed.”
PANDA offers Australia’s only free Perinatal Mental Health Helpline, community and health professionals learning hub and helpful resources translated into 40 languages. Contact the PANDA Helpline on 1300 726 306 Mon to Sat, 9am – 7.30pm AEST/AEDT, including public holidays.