Supporting fathers to support depressed new mothers – what does Australia offer?

30 March 2010

If a mother is depressed after the birth of a child then everyone is in trouble: the mother, the new baby and the father. Recent research tells us that the father’s involvement with the baby and in helping the mother to cope is crucial for the health of the family. Yet programmes and resources usually overlook the fathers in families with depressed mothers.

Websites offer one important channel for information and support for expectant and new fathers; and this Australian-based project set out to evaluate nine major websites for the support they offered to these fathers. The websites included major depression, government health department and parenting sites. The websites were evaluated along three lines:

  • Is the information specific to fathers?
  • Does it cover the different aspects of the fathers’ role?
  • Does the website allow fathers in families with depression to interact with the site and with each other?

Each website was given a score from 0-18 for father-inclusiveness. Although most websites came off very poorly (the average score was 6.6) when the evaluation was sent to each website for comment, nine of them responded with positive descriptions of how they were planning to improve the support for fathers.

The guidelines for assessing the websites developed for this project provide a template for policy makers, practitioners and fathers to decide which websites in other parts of the world might offer the best information and support to new fathers in families grappling with depression. The guidelines may also, with modifications, help other services to assess their father-inclusiveness.

View the report here

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