This section is divided into two parts. The first part is to support dads and partners who have a partner who has a perinatal mental health problem. The second part is for dads and partners who are experiencing mental health problems themselves. If your partner is also experiencing a mental health problem, this can make it even harder for you to cop with the normal struggles of becoming a parent.

Part 1 - Your partner has a mental health problem

Dads & partners play a key role in identifying and helping mothers with their own perinatal mental health issues. You will probably notice any changes in your partners behaviour before anyone else, and it may be down to you to make sure she gets the help she needs, by talking to the midwife, health visitor or GP for example. There are also many ways that you can help which we have have listed below.


Key messages to give your partner:

The main message is to reassure here that this is not her fault. It's easy for her to feel like there's nothing she can do that will help - you can remind here and help her to look after herself. There are some things that they can and should do immediately. For more details have a read of DadsMatterUK's leaflet called 'Why am I not happy?'.


Ways to help your partner:

Sometimes it can be very difficult to know how to help your partner. You may feel whatever you say or do, is not helping for to feel better. You may feel you have tried many different things but none have worked

"Supporting someone with a mental illness is one of the biggest challenges."

If your partner is not already doing so you must encourage her to seek professional help. The sooner she does this the quicker she will recover. Maternal mental health problems can be serious but she can get better.

While it is natural to feel like you should be able to help fix you partner's distress it's very likely she will need more treatment and support than you can provide alone.

Try to focus on providing practical and emotional support and ensure that she receives these extra services.


How can you help?

  • Listen to her and be there
  • Understand this is not her fault or yours, but a real illness and remind her that she will get better
  • Be involved with your partner's care to gain understanding
  • Be patient and kind
  • Help her to organise her time and encourage her to work out what needs doing now and what can wait


Other practical things you can help with that will make a huge difference:

  • Keep visitors to a minimum
  • Encourage your partner to take rest and time out for themselves
  • Cook a meal and help with night feeds
  • Offer to take the baby out for a walk or round to friends
  • Remember to tell your partner of your love and give hugs


This is important - this is a list of symptoms which may indicate that your partner has a more serious mental health problem - if you are aware of any of these you need to make sure that she gets specialist help. If they start at the weekend get help straight away through the out of hours GP service, don't wait until Monday morning.

  • New thoughts of violent self-harm - don't worry about asking her if she have any thoughts about harming herself - she'll probably be really relieved to be able to talk about it, although some women find it really hard to talk about this. If you're worried about her mood and she's spending a lot of time on the internet then try asking her what she's looking at - sometimes women look up ways to complete a suicide.
  • Sudden onset or rapidly worsening mental symptoms - perinatal illnesses can start really quickly and an individual can deteriorate fast - if she is acting strangely look at the symptoms on the Postpartum psychosis page and talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP.
  • Persistent feelings of estrangement from their baby - this may mean that she doesn't want to be near the baby or to do any of care. She might start saying something like 'she's not a good enough mother to look after the baby' - again, you need to tell a health a professional and get help as soon as possible.


Part 2 - Worried about your own mental health?

Studies into postnatal depression in fathers suggest that around one in five men experience depression after becoming fathers.

Partners might develop a mental health problem when becoming a parent for similar reasons to mothers, particularly if you:

  • Are a young parent without good support networks in place
  • Have experienced abuse in your childhood
  • Are struggling with stressful life events, like moving house, losing your job or being bereaved
  • Have poor living conditions

You might also be coping with:

  • Extra responsibilities around the house
  • Financial pressures
  • A changing relationship with your partner
  • Lack of sleep

You can get help and support from the midwife, health visitor or GP. Your local IAPT service can support you if you think that you have depression or anxiety, and you can refer yourself. It's free and as a new parent you should be prioritised for therapy.

Self-help:

There are lots of different types of self-help available to you for mild to moderate depression so you should be able to find an approach that suits you. One example can be seen by clicking here. This provides you with the option of exploring how you might be feeling through a workbook approach. There are also a number of online self-help programmes for depression.

You may also find the Baby Buddy app useful. It contains masses of useful information about your partners physical and mental health in pregnancy and after the baby has arrived.

Reading well books are available from most libraries, they promote the benefits of reading for health and wellbeing.

You can also look at online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBTS) programmes here as well as self-help guides from the NHS here.

Talking therapy is a NICE recognised therapy delivered by a therapist either face to face, over the telephone or in groups. The therapy is available wherever you live via the NHS and is completely free. If your partner is pregnant or in the first post-natal year your will be prioritised for talking therapy treatment- make sure you mention this when you are referred, There are many different types of therapy available including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which has proved very effective for depression. You should receive your treatment within 6 weeks of the initial referral (NICE 2014).


Useful help & resources:

  • FOR URGENT HELP CALL NHS 111 OR SAMARITANS (08457 90 90 90).
  • DadsMatterUK factsheets and leaflets
  • If your partner is suffering from a more severe form of maternal mental health illness known as postpartum psychosis then please click here.
  • Andrew Mayers is based in Dorset - his website includes local and national services for dads and partners as well as a blog and information on research.
  • Click here for friends and family information from Hampshire Lanterns.
  • NCT (National Childbirth Trust)

Content adapted from MIND and DADSMATTERUK

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