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PATH: Raising awareness of fathers’ mental health during the perinatal period

7th January 2022

The iHV was delighted to be able to develop and offer a new training programme during 2021 to two cohorts of SCPHN health visiting students to develop father-inclusive practice and raise awareness of the perinatal mental health needs of fathers during the perinatal period.

This opportunity arose through the iHV being a collaborative partner in the PATH project- (Perinatal- Mental Health) which is part of the Interreg VA 2Seas programme covering the south coast of the UK and receives funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

The aim of the PATH project is to build a host of resources and advice to enable parents, their families and healthcare professionals to:

  • promote good family mental health and wellbeing
  • prevent, recognise, and successfully manage mild to moderate perinatal mental illnesses (PMI).

The Institute of Health Visiting developed and designed a father/partner awareness programme for health professionals in the PATH region as part of this PATH project. The training is a 3-hour programme based on contemporary research and lived experience of fathers.  We worked collaboratively with Dad Matters UK, a project within Home-Start who are also involved in the delivery of the training. This is an introductory module to stimulate reflection about father/partner inclusivity.

The learning outcomes for the session were:

  • Participants will recognise how their own beliefs about fatherhood may currently influence their practice with families.
  • Participants will be able to identify significant personal professional and organisation barriers to engaging with fathers and consider how they may address these.
  • Participants will understand the benefits of father-inclusive practice for mothers, fathers, and children.
  • Participants will recognise the significant challenges that fathers face in the transition to parenthood, including the emotional and/or mental health difficulties faced by fathers and the impact of the couple relationship and the relationship shared as parents.

The sessions evaluated extremely well and the key themes from the learning experience identified by the students are as follows:

“The importance of engaging fathers/partners and how to involve them more.”

“Preventing barriers to fathers’/partners’ involvement in practice and to challenge how we talk about transition to parenthood especially for fathers”

“How to improve access to services for fathers”

“Importance of enquiry about fathers’/partners’ mental health and the confidence to ask dads how they feel.”

“Available resources for fathers and feeling inspired to develop my knowledge in this area and share this with colleagues.”

“Greater awareness of potential paternal mental health difficulties, especially if there was a traumatic birth experience.”

“Impact of having a baby on the couple relationship”

“Statistics around mental health and the impact that partners’ involvement has on mothers and children.”

“New information and greater awareness around including fathers and moving towards a service that is equally inclusive of both parents.”

“How personal experiences of fathers can influence your practice.”

“To share the knowledge I have gained with my practice educator, line manager and colleagues and explore the support we offer for fathers and brought into guidelines and documentation.”

“It was a fabulous insight into an area that really isn’t discussed in practice and after lockdown I think we are going to be more proactive in helping dads’ mental health too.”

Cara White a student health visitor from Greenwich University who attended the training wrote the following once she returned to practice.

“Being offered the opportunity to attend the online training for the fathers and partners awareness as part of my training to become a health visitor has benefited the families that I now work with. I have changed how I conduct my consultations and the structure of these to incorporate the fathers and partners. I address the fathers and partners by name and speak directly to them. So many partners often feel that they do not need to be present for the consultations, but I always encourage them to stay, even for a short period so that they can have an input and we can build a rapport with each other. The course also gave me knowledge of some online websites and social media groups that I could signpost the fathers and partners to with confidence that these would meet their needs.

I will continue to enhance my knowledge on services available to men regarding their mental health, both locally and nationally, and ensuring that the families I work with benefit from the services that they may not know are available to them.”

In January we are pleased to be working with the University of Surrey and DadMatters UK to train two further cohorts of SCPHN students in father and partner-inclusive practice.

Voices Blog written by Maggie Fisher, Professional Development Officer iHV

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