An SMS system to support new fathers will be launched in South Australia after research finds one in seven experience high levels of psychological distress and one in 10 face anxiety.
SMS4dadsSA is part of the State Government’s five-year Mental Health Strategic Plan, which seeks to improve efforts in early intervention.
The SMS service will provide support for new dads by sending out messages with links and helpful tips for the early stages of fatherhood.
SA Health Minister Peter Malinauskas said it could go a long way towards preventing the onset of mental illness.
He said having a new child could be a shock to a man.
“To provide some support and information can go along way to preventing that … we hope it delivers good results,” Mr Malinauskas said.
“We need to act early on the signs and symptoms of poor mental health before people reach a crisis point.”
In developing the plan, the SA Mental Health Commission consulted with 2,270 people.
It said one in five, or more than 280,000 South Australians between the ages of 16 and 85, were experiencing a “diagnosable” mental illness, while 45 per cent experienced the same at some point in their life.
The SMS service is a project of the University of Newcastle and has already been rolled out interstate.
Fathers can enrol during pregnancy
Fathers can enrol with SMS4dadsSA at any time during pregnancy until three months post-birth.
The expected date of delivery or date of birth is entered at enrolment so texts are linked to the developmental stage of the baby.
A text message example includes, “Babies often cry more at four to six weeks after birth than at any other time. Can you think of extra ways to support your partner at this time?”
At every three weeks the participants will be asked, “How’s it going?”
Dads that reply “bad” will receive a telephone call from a national perinatal mental health help line.
The program in SA will begin with 250 registered men and will expand if it is successful.
It will cost the SA Government $130,000.
A University of Newcastle 2016 study of 520 dads found almost half of participants responded to the “How’s it going?” question, and less than 1 per cent responded “bad”.
It found 92 per cent of men believed that the messaging system helped them transition to becoming fathers, while 83 per cent said it helped their relationship with the mother.