New data released in line with International Fathers’ Mental Health Day today, reveals only one in five new dads were well supported by their workplace during their partner’s pregnancy. And when returning to work after parental leave, one in three were supported.
The findings come out of a survey by Gidget Foundation Australia on a national representative sample of 508 expectant Australian parents and parents with children under 5.
A lack of workplace support is concerning considering that, in Australia, perinatal depression and anxiety (PNDA) affects one in ten fathers and one in five mothers.
The stigma associated with PNDA in men exacerbates the problem even further as the survey data shows fathers are less likely to seek help even though two in five (40 per cent) say they found parenting much more challenging than expected.
Acknowledging that PNDA is a condition not just exclusive to mothers is important, according to Chris Barnes, Gidget Foundation Australia’s Senior Clinical Team Leader and Clinical Psychologist.
Barnes explains that the issue of new dads not seeking help is complex, saying, “balancing work and parental responsibilities can place pressures on new dads.”
“The expectation of taking only minimum parental leave means most dads do not have sufficient time to support themselves or their family in those early parenting days.”
“Men want to be more involved now more than ever before and we know that fathers have a significant role to play in raising healthy and happy children,” he says, adding that the issue of father’s mental health needs to be tackled in the workplace as well as the wider community.
“If we can educate more organisations as well as dads on how to identify the signs of PNDA then we encourage more conversation, address gender inequality, reduce stigma and help develop ways workplaces can support them by normalising flexible working,” he says.
Only five per cent of Gidget Foundation’s clients are new dads– a figure that Gidget Foundation Australia CEO, Arabella Gibson says shows fathers are suffering in silence.
“Although PNDA affects half as many new dads as it does new mums, the fact that just five per cent of our clients are fathers tells us that there’s still men who are struggling behind closed doors. What these new dads don’t realise is that they are far from alone and help is available, with early treatment incredibly important for the best chance of recovery,” Ms Gibson says.
“The more men we can encourage to speak up about PNDA the better, and the more we can encourage conversations and reduce stigma, the more fathers – and mothers – will seek out and receive early support.”