06 September 2020

A free pilot program to help new and expectant fathers navigate the physical, mental and emotional challenges of becoming a dad will be rolled out in four regions in NSW from today.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the ‘Focus on New Fathers’ program will be trialled with men in Northern NSW, Northern and Western Sydney and the Murrumbidgee area.

“Ask any father and they will tell you, becoming a parent is an equally joyous and terrifying experience because your entire routine is turned on its head,” Mr Hazzard said.

“It is a considerable adjustment which can put tremendous stress on you and on your relationship, so it’s important to know you are not alone and help is at hand – literally.

“This pilot will see texts sent to dads, offering valuable health advice and links into pathways to ensure support options are available, particularly in these uncertain COVID times.”

Research has shown men are often reluctant to engage with the health system to get support, despite around one in 10 dads experiencing depression and anxiety in the postnatal period.

The pilot, which is being delivered by the University of Newcastle in partnership with NSW Health, will run over the next year with results helping to improve the program.

Men living in the trial site areas will be eligible for the program if they are over the age of 18, their partner is at least 16 weeks pregnant or their baby is up to 24 weeks of age. They must have a mobile phone capable of receiving and sending text messages.

Associate Professor Elisabeth Murphy, Senior Clinical Advisor, Child and Family Health, said self-care for new fathers is extremely important as the mental and physical wellbeing of both parents has a direct effect on their children.

“Receiving help with health issues early on ensures dads are in the best possible position to care for their new baby and partner,” Associate Professor Murphy said.

“We also understand expecting and new parents may experience more worries about their health and wellbeing in relation to COVID-19. We encourage expectant and new parents, particularly at this time, to reach out for support to their healthcare provider or GP.”