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Work life benefits

16 January 2019

Mental health Perinatal mental health Community services
For many new dads, the pressures of a new addition to the family, and the resulting changes to home life and family structure, can have a negative impact on their emotional wellbeing.

"Having a new child can be an exciting time, but it's also a time of significant change," National Coordinator for St John of God Raphael Services Anthony Harrington said.

"Sometimes it's not always joyous. It can cause stress and big emotional struggles for dads, mums and families."

Anthony coordinates Raphael Services across 15 locations Australia-wide. The service is provided with no out-of-pocket cost individual and group support for emotional challenges faced by new or expectant dads, mums and families up until their child’s fourth birthday.

According to Anthony, dads are often the last to seek help, even though they too face struggles before and after their new baby is born.

"Often it is the woman who reaches out for help for herself, but what she really wants is to make the connection for her partner," he said.

"Men can experience big emotional struggles - like perinatal depression and anxiety - too. The dads we work with really value having someone to talk to, to hear their concerns and validate that they are in a stressful situation.

"What they are experiencing is treatable and we can put plans in place to help."

Anthony said sometimes new dads had a distorted sense of what was achievable, as a parent and a person, and it could cross into other areas of their life, such as work.

"Taking action to improve your wellbeing can help you not just at home - it can also assist you to cope with other stresses, like work," he said.

He recalled supporting one new dad who was becoming quite anxious and held a leadership role at work.

"He had started doubting his ability in the office because he was doubting his ability as a parent," Anthony said.

"With treatment from Raphael Services, he was able to retrain his thinking and find his strength and conviction in the workplace as well as in the home. He was less critical about what he could and couldn't do."

He advised new parents to put some conscious thought into what you can realistically do and achieve with a new baby and a young family.

“One of the biggest challenges for new dads and mums is re-evaluating where your time and energy is going to be spent, because you have less availability,” he said.

“By taking action early on, you will be more prepared.”

In terms of seeking support when problems arose, he advised getting in contact with Raphael Services early on.

 “If you notice that you’re getting a bit down, seek some support early on, whether that be through a good friend, a family member, or utilise someone that’s completely objective and seek professional help,” he said.

“See it as a bit of a tune-up – every now and then everything needs a bit of a tune-up and refresh.”

St John of God Health Care
Anthony Harrington - Mental health nurse

Anthony Harrington is a credentialed mental health nurse with more than 26 years’ experience and is the St John of God Raphael Services National Coordinator.