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New support scheme for dads with postnatal depression

The 'How Are You, Dad?' project, will launch in Fife, Tayside, Lanarkshire, Lothian and Glasgow.

Family man: Tim Porteus with his family and holding baby Lewis.
Family man: Tim Porteus with his family and holding baby Lewis.

By Clare McNeill

A programme to help new fathers with postnatal depression is being piloted in Scotland.

The 'How Are You, Dad?' project, will see midwives and health visitors in Fife, Tayside, North Lanarkshire, Lothian and Glasgow trained to recognise signs.

Father-of-five Tim Porteus describes himself as the ultimate family man who always puts his children first.

However, after the birth of his youngest Lewis in 2015, Tim became overwhelmed with anxieties and pressures he'd never felt in the past.

He initially didn't realise he was suffering from postnatal depression as he didn't know it could affect men.

The 56-year-old said: "I remember feeling this huge overwhelming sense of guilt leaving my wife in this exhausted state, and then I had to go to work and try to function at work, and then come back to an exhausted wife and try and take over. And we were both sleep deprived.

"I was trying to function at work as well as be a supportive and hands-on dad at home.

Struggle: Tim suffered from postnatal depression after the birth of his youngest Lewis.
Struggle: Tim suffered from postnatal depression after the birth of his youngest Lewis.

"Feeling guilty that I wasn't being the husband I should be, and I couldn't bond with my child because wee Lewis just cried all the time and I was exhausted, I started to get quite seriously depressed.

"I remember coming home one day, really utterly at the point where I felt 'I can't do this'.

"I came home and my wife was in tears. How could I possibly say to my wife, 'darling, I'm not coping' when you can see your wife isn't either?"

Tim suffered in silence as he tried to be the strong support his wife Katharina needed.

He said: "It's hard-wired in a man that it's his job to be the provider and be the strong one and I really couldn't let her down.

"And so there's a little voice in a man's head that says 'you need to man up, you've got to soldier on', and I think the toxic part of that is it's going to drive you into the sand."

'There's a little voice in a man's head that says you need to man up you've got to soldier on, and I think the toxic part of that is it's going to drive you into the sand.'
Tim Porteus

Tim said he was never asked how he was feeling during his struggle.

It got to the point where he wasn't functioning at home or in his job, and eventually had a breakdown at work. He says that after he sought help, things started to get better.

"I could really enjoy being a dad again, I love the bones of all my kids," he said. "Things were hard with Lewis, as with all my kids, but we are all really close."

David Devenney, from Fathers Network Scotland, said 'How Are You, Dad?' will be a groundbreaking project.

"We discovered that only 16% of men had been asked about their mental health," he said.

"We thought it's time to begin to look at how we can shine a spotlight on dads' mental health.

"It's really important because dad's mental health is quite closely intertwined with mum's mental health.

'One in ten men get postnatal depression and not many people really know and understand that.'
David Devenney, Fathers Network Scotland

"In fact ,one in ten men get postnatal depression and not many people really know and understand that."

The pilot project is being funded by the Scottish Government. Training will begin in Glasgow in February

Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick said: "This is a really important piece of work. We have a really good support network for mothers to ensure post is identified but Fathers Network Scotland recognised there was a gap around the support for father's mental health.

"First of all it's important to raise awareness. And it's really important that the whole family is supported and we know that when that fails that can have a really adverse impact on the child and that's what's really important here."

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