￼Mental Health Awareness Matters for Fathers too: Mark Williams
Research has shown that as many as 1:8 fathers experience PND. Fathers can experience antenatal anxiety and depression too. Fathers tend to suffer in silence and often reach crisis point before getting the help they need. Men tend to keep feelings to themselves and suffer in silence. Unfortunately relationship breakdown is often a result of mental health issues, affecting the whole family.
I wanted to share Mark’s story to show that whilst this weeks focus is on Maternal Mental Health Awareness, partners and fathers mental health matters too. As it states in the findings of the 2017 RCOG survey, ‘support should be available for partners, as a wider approach of treating maternal mental health and limiting the effect it has on the whole family’. They recommended that ‘healthcare professionals should acknowledge and understand the impact that pregnancy and birth can have on a woman’s partner, especially if the woman herself is experiencing mental health problems. The importance of the whole family’s mental health needs during the perinatal period are currently overlooked. The Government should develop a strategy to support the mental health of partners, whether through digital platforms or community-based support.’
Who is Mark Williams?
In 2012 Mark Williams was awarded Local Hero at the Pride of Britain Awards and Inspirational Father of the year. In 2016 he was chosen to meet the Royal Family on World Mental Health Day 2016. Mark is the founder of Fathers Reaching Out and was a co-founder of the charity Dads Matter UK.
Mark is heavily involved campaigning for awareness for father’s Mental Health. After both he and his wife suffered with mental health problems including anxiety and depression he decided that the world needs to recognise the mental health of fathers during pregnancy and the postnatal period. He has written about Fathers’ mental health in several publications and has appeared on BBC Breakfast, ITV NEWS, Good Morning Britain, Channel 5 and various radio programmes.
To date, Mark has spoken around the World at over 150 conferences and events including The International Marce Conference in Melbourne, The Royal College of Midwives, The Institute of Health Visiting, MIND, The NHS, Mental Health Day, World Suicide Prevention Day and many independent Mental Health and Healthcare Conferences.
He also works with Dr Jane Hanley of PMH Training Training health professionals.
Here is Mark Williams’ story
Never in a million years would I have said that I would end up with depression, let alone in the postnatal period. I was so uneducated back in 2004 when my life changed forever.
It started from the labour ward when I had my first and only panic attack to date when the doctors came rushing in and telling me that my wife, Michelle had to have an emergency C- Section straight away and thinking my wife and baby where going to die.
When my son was born I didn’t get that overwhelming feeling of love that I was expecting, I was just glad they were both alive.
Michelle, the lady I love went on to have severe postnatal depression and the care teams came to be involved after two weeks. I didn’t have a clue about postnatal depression and was now thinking maybe it was down to me. It made me wonder if I was going to be a good dad?
My life totally changed and within months and things got much worse. I had to give up my job. With no money coming in and a new mortgage to pay felt so isolated looking after them. I had to do things I had never done before and started to drink to cope with my racing thoughts.
I was now starting to feel depressed myself but didn’t know if it was just low mood. I kept telling myself it would be better tomorrow but it never was at all during this time.
My mother in law came to live with us and my personality totally changed within the first few months after my son was born. At one point I got so angry and punched the sofa. As a result I broke my hand. I started fights and just wanted someone to take away the pain inside me. Four to five months after my son was born, I began to have suicidal thoughts .
The one great thing that came from staying home was the bond I developed with my son. But I couldn’t tell Michelle how I was truly feeling as I didn’t want it to affect her recovery.
Michelle’s illness after eighteen months had subsided. However I was now struggling. I would come home after not really going to work saying I was “fine”. I changed jobs more and more with my drinking slowly getting worse.
I struggled but everything settled down until another trauma happened five years later in 2011.
I had a full breakdown in a car one day outside work….
I was put on medication and learned about positive coping skills with counselling. I was under community mental health teams and after a few years was diagnosed with ADHD at forty. Which is one of the reasons why we need to monitor fathers history of mental illness as well before they start becoming a dad.
It was the best thing getting the help as it was the start of my own recovery and I have used my own experience working with Dr Jane Hanley to campaign for all parents to be screened and supported while having a baby.
I am now working as a speaker and trainer. I have spoken around the world and written for many articles. I have appeared on Television and Radio Stations several times making awareness for families and professionals.
I wish I hadn’t have cared what people thought and got the help sooner as my recovery may have been shorter.
If you’re feeling down please go to the doctors and make sure you get the help required for yourself and family.
Have you read the other posts in this series MrsMummyHarris talks about pregnancy and depression, Laura from FiveLittleDoves talks about long term anxiety and depression and the introduction to #MaternalMHMatters.