A new app will provide 24/7 mental health support for fathers in Scotland, thanks to new funding.
Father's Network Scotland (FNS) is a small Edinburgh-based charity that works with organisations across Scotland to support dads and their families during times of emotional hardship.
However, the charity has struggled to meet the growing demand for its services due to a gap in funding caused by the pandemic, sparking fears that many fathers could be going without any support at all.
Now, with a new £3.5 million pot of funding from the Movember Social Connections Challenge, the charity plans to launch a new 24/7 support app to ensure every dad gets help when they need it.
The app will connect with NHS and community services local to the user, as well as provide useful advice and information, and a chat function to let them connect with other fathers.
"We are a small team of four, but we have kept our mental health support going in recent months with zero funding, so it has been touch and go," Kirsty Nicholls, project lead for the app at FNS, told The Scotsman. "With the app, even if men get in touch in crisis in the middle of the night they will be able to see services locally and be reassured that help is going to be available to them.”
In tandem with the new funding announcement, FNS is calling for mental health checks of all new fathers in Scotland as part of International Men's Health Week.
The call follows a recent study by the charity that highlights the prevalence of poor mental health among new dads.
In the FNS 2021 Dads Survey of 156 fathers, 37% of respondents described their mental health as bad or very bad.
A high number of fathers also reported a deterioration in their mental health during lockdown – 64% during the first lockdown and 69% during the second.
The figures are particularly concerning when coupled with the low rate of men likely to seek mental health support, while suicide remains the leading cause of death for men aged 20–49 in the UK.
"We still have outdated gender stereotypes and there’s a pressure on men to not open up about their emotions," added Nicholls. “This funding will transform support that Fathers Network Scotland is able to offer men across Scotland.
“The app will mean that any man who is facing mental health challenges will be able to receive help 365 days a year and make strong social connections when they are most needed."
According to Nicholls, the amount of men contacting FNS has been growing every month, with many needing support for relationship issues, dealings with family court, child access, or bereavement.
The app will help address the problem of loneliness and isolation many fathers feel, said Brendan Maher, global mental health director at Movember. "We’re really looking forward to working with Fathers Network Scotland to develop this app, which will support the mental wellbeing of dads who have been struggling in the most difficult circumstances.”
To find out more about Fathers Network Scotland, click here.
Written by Marco Ricci
Editor and contributor for Talking Mental Health