Dad Matters is a Home-Start Project supporting Dads through the early relationship and attachment with their baby, as well as supporting Dads with their mental health, supporting a partner with mental health and support in accessing services. Dad Matters also help new Dads access support when required.
We spoke to Charlie Hull, who is the Dad Matters Co-ordinator of Home-Start Somerset and has been supporting Dads in Somerset over the past year with the primary focus on the peri-natal stage, and support in the dealing with the demands of older children within the family unit, which Charlie has happily provided.
We asked Charlie what the biggest need amongst new fathers is?
From Minehead in the West, criss-crossing the county all the way to Frome in the East, by far the biggest need amongst new fathers is to receive open mental health support to help them deal with and process the emotional changes that occur during this early, crucial stage in their Fatherhood journey.
I do assure them that the approximately 80% drop in testosterone experienced by Dads during the perinatal period is nature’s way of preparing them to be Dad, and that the resultant feelings of angst, confusion and a general sense of ‘not being myself’ are all perfectly normal and to be expected. It usually comes as some relief to learn that, on talking through their feelings and struggles, it is perfectly normal to not always feel the sense of being ‘on top of the world’ that deep rooted societal pressures often compel us to feel.
The most specific concerns in the early months reported to me concern, predictably, infant crying and sleeping and how best to manage this on both a practical and emotional level. I use the ICON methodology in this instance, the message of which has, pleasingly, already been relayed successfully to all the Dads I have supported. In addition, I have also focused a lot on how best to support Mum during this stage, particularly if she herself has been suffering with poor mental health. I always make the assumption that if Mum is suffering then Dad is too – and vice versa.
We asked Charlie what support is available in Somerset?
Whether online, over the phone or in-person, the support and mentoring offered will frequently address wider issues surrounding work, family and community relationships that directly affect Dads’ mental health. The challenging geography of the county, with the attendant patchy and uneven access to key services, poses significant challenges to all young families in the county; particularly so during the current post-pandemic costs-of-living crisis. I therefore spend much time signposting to the various charities I work with that can help mitigate these concerns, in addition to guiding Dad towards paying as much attention to his physical as his mental health.
Overall, it is positive that mental health support for Dads is now receiving much more recognition, and that men increasingly recognise that burying or ignoring any of their concerns is not necessarily a sign of true strength. The perinatal period in particular brings this to focus, and the Dads receiving help in Somerset at this stage all recognise that asking for help is crucial in building a solid Fatherhood foundation for the future.