Dads & partners play a key role in identifying and helping mothers with their own perinatal mental health issues. You will probably notice any changes in your partners behaviour before anyone else, and it may be down to you to make sure she gets the help she needs, by talking to the midwife, health visitor or GP for example. There are also many ways that you can help which we have have listed below.
Key messages to give your partner:
The main message is to reassure her that this is not her fault. It's easy for her to feel like there's nothing she can do that will help - you can remind her there is and help her to look after herself. There are some things that they can and should do immediately. For more details have a read of DadsMatterUK's leaflet called 'Why am I not happy?'.
Ways to help your partner:
Sometimes it can be very difficult to know how to help your partner. You may feel whatever you say or do, it is not helping them to feel better. You may feel you have tried many different things but none have worked.
"Supporting someone with a mental illness is one of the biggest challenges."
If your partner is not already doing so you must encourage them to seek professional help. The sooner they do this the quicker they will recover. Maternal mental health problems can be serious but they can get better.
While it is natural to feel like you should be able to help fix your partner's distress it's very likely they will need more treatment and support than you can provide alone.
Try to focus on providing practical and emotional support and ensure that they receive these extra services.
How can you help?
- Listen and be there
- Understand this is not their fault or yours, but a real illness and remind them that they will get better
- Be involved with your partner's care to gain understanding
- Be patient and kind
- Help them to organise her time and encourage them to work out what needs doing now and what can wait
Other practical things you can help with that will make a huge difference:
- Keep visitors to a minimum
- Encourage your partner to take rest and time out for themselves
- Cook a meal and help with night feeds
- Offer to take the baby out for a walk or round to friends
- Remember to tell your partner of your love and give hugs
This is important - this is a list of symptoms which may indicate that your partner has a more serious mental health problem - if you are aware of any of these you need to make sure that they get specialist help. If they start at the weekend get help straight away through the out of hours GP 111 service, don't wait until Monday morning.
- New thoughts of violent self-harm - don't worry about asking them if they have any thoughts about harming themselves -they'll probably be really relieved to be able to talk about it, although some people find it really hard to talk about this. If you're worried about their mood and they are spending a lot of time on the internet then try asking what theyare looking at - sometimes people look up ways to complete a suicide.
- Sudden onset or rapidly worsening mental symptoms - perinatal illnesses can start really quickly and an individual can deteriorate fast - if they is acting strangely talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP.
- Persistent feelings of estrangement from their baby - this may mean that they don't want to be near the baby or to do any of care. They might start saying something like 'they are not a good enough parent to look after the baby' - again, you need to tell a health a professional and get help as soon as possible.