General News — 16 April 2012
Dads with mental illness ‘need extra support’

CLINICIANS need to recognise and support fathers with mental illness to help prevent potentially devastating effects on children’s wellbeing, Hunter specialists say.

A significant proportion of fathers living with their natural, adopted, step or foster children experienced mental illness, a study published in today’s Medical Journal of Australia said.

Academics from the University of Newcastle and Hunter New England Health junior medical officers worked with Adelaide and Melbourne colleagues.

They said mental illness in fathers, including anxiety and psychotic and substance use disorders, could have serious developmental effects on children.

These included an increased risk of death, mental health problems, learning difficulties, behavioural problems, physical illnesses and developmental impairment.

Support was needed to help men with mental illness successfully parent their children, the study said.

The university health faculty’s Family Action Centre senior lecturer Richard Fletcher said there was not enough recognition of mental illness in fathers.

National advocacy initiative Children Of Parents with a Mental Illness was working to change that, he said.

Health professionals could help.

‘‘There’s a big gap in the way we don’t ask fathers about their mental health,’’ Dr Fletcher said.

Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital did regular check-ups with mothers at risk of depression.

‘‘But they don’t do that with dads,’’ he said.

As first appeared in Newcastle Herald, 16 April 2012

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