Having had a career as an infantry soldier, going into fatherhood I thought I was able to handle any situation and cope with it. Being ex-military, my views on mental health were probably very extreme because I felt like I was programmed to be a certain way. It's this ‘pain is weakness leaving the body’ mindset that makes me cringe now, but that’s the way I was used to thinking as a soldier. This all changed after traumatic events during the birth of my sixth child. My wife and son nearly died due to complications during labour and afterwards I suffered with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and anxiety.
The impact of birth trauma on paternal mental health is something I was completely unprepared for and something I did not think could not affect men. When I started experiencing these mental health problems myself, I didn’t understand it. I believe it’s hard to understand the impact that a mental health issue can have on you, until you have experienced it yourself. You can read 100 books, but you’ll never fully understand parts of it unless you’ve been through it. When I was struggling with my mental health in the perinatal period, I did not know what was wrong and there seems to be a complete lack of awareness on the subject in general.
The turning point...
Seeing another dad, Mark Williams, speak out publicly on this topic was a real turning point for me. That was when I began to understand the need for fathers to seek support if they are struggling. When I couldn’t find this support, I decided to set up my own supportive Instagram account called PMH support (Paternal Mental Health support). Through this account I try to promote the importance of acknowledging paternal mental health while also offering parenting hints and tips I have picked up over my 18 years of parenting! I believe that hearing other dads speak out on this topic is important, the more we talk and communicate, the more dads will feel included in the conversation.
I am a mental health advocate and campaigner, working locally and nationally speaking to expectant parents. I am a member of the Paternal Mental Health Alliance, peer to peer leader trained and a Beyond Birth wellbeing practitioner. I am part of the perinatal CIC where I help to co- produce and work as a team deliver training to professionals on paternal mental health.