Health SMS program combats post-natal depression in dads

SMS program combats post-natal depression in dads

Mental health risks among new dads are being addressed by a world-first SMS program created by the University of Newcastle (UON), in partnership with beyondblue and the Movember Foundation.

The transition to fatherhood is a high-risk period of mental distress for men, with the sudden responsibility of caring for a newborn, expectations of providing financial support and a drastic change in lifestyle.

Research shows one in seven new dads experience a high level of psychological distress while adjusting to fatherhood and one in ten first-time fathers develops postnatal depression.

The free Smartphone program, SMS4dads, sends regular text messages to fathers offering uncomplicated information, advice and encouragement during the life-changing experience.

The service is synchronised with each baby’s development so dads receive timely and relevant advice about supporting their partner during pregnancy and caring for their newborn.

SMS4dads also provides an easy-to-use tool that tracks each father’s mood and stress levels. Dads who are consistently stressed or feeling low receive additional support and a phone call offering information about services.

Results of a national trial showed 92 per cent of participating dads found the service helpful.

SMS4dads project leader, UON’s Associate Professor Richard Fletcher said the program worked because it was easy to access, private and provided practical solutions.

“Many fathers believe their main role is to provide for their family, which can place extraordinary pressure on their shoulders. Often, their own mental health is the last thing dads think about.

“It can be hard to engage men, especially when it comes to mental health but this approach, using the latest digital technology, is convenient and appeals to men.”

The Movember Foundation Executive Director of Programs Paul Villanti described SMS4dads as a breakthrough program.

“We know through our work that a lot of blokes probably wouldn’t pick up the phone and ask for help. With SMS4dads we have the potential to help thousands of men who would otherwise probably try to struggle through on their own.”

“Millions have been invested into providing mental health supports for new mums – and rightly so – but it’s also time we invested in supporting new dads.”

Read more about this world-first program here. Story credit: University of Newcastle newsroom.

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