“We are facing a crisis”: Lady Gaga delivers passionate speech on mental health and suicide

Lady Gaga delivered a passionate speech on mental health and suicide, saying “we are losing a generation of young people”.

The ‘Shallow’ singer addressed the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s 3rd annual Patron of the Artists Awards, at which she was honoured. Her 23-minute acceptance speech for wining the Artists Inspiration Award covered her own mental health issues, her fears for young musicians and artists struggling to voice their struggles, and her plans to build future programmes.

“We are losing a generation of young people who do not believe that their voices are worth hearing, that their pain has no end,” she said. “And that their contributions are not valuable enough to move the needle in society and culture. We are facing a crisis of epic proportions and the cause of that crisis is our inability or unwillingness to be open and honest about one thing – mental health, today.”

While the singer urged people to focus on kindness, she also noted the reluctance people still have to discuss mental health issues publicly.

“When I give speeches about kindness, people have lively engaged discussions but when I speak about mental health, even or especially when I’m speaking about mine, it is often met with quietness,” she said. “Or maybe a somber line of fans waiting outside to whisper to me in the shadows about their darkest secrets.

“We need to bring mental health into the light. We need to share our stories so that global mental health no longer resides and festers in the darkness. It is dangerous and we know this because amongst other shootings and acts of violence.”

This isn’t the first time Gaga has spoken out about mental health. In October, she penned an emotional essay about the urgent need for more mental health services across the globe – as well as calling for the stigma surrounding mental illness to end.

At the awards ceremony, Gaga set out her plan for a specific mental health programme that doesn’t simply respond to emergency situation or focus on medical answers.

“By the year 2030, I wish for everybody to have their person that they can talk to who is an expert and can help them. I am beckoning for this because it is perceived by many that mental health is only talked about in the midst of crisis or when something needs to be fixed. I want teams in place to provide prevention.

“We need to not only think in terms of doctors, billable hours and hospital stays but protective and preventative care for ourselves and each other, holistically. Do you have a mental health team? Who is on it? Who are the people you can turn to? What are the activities that can reduce our stress?”

She also paid tribute to her mental health team, saying “I have learned now are treatable and I can stop living in fear and begin living with bravery.”

“And after working as hard as I possibly could to achieve my dreams, slowly but surely the word “yes,” “yes,” “sure,” became too automatic,” she continued. “And my inner voice shut down which I have learned now is very unhealthy. I was not empowered to say no.”

Read more at https://www.nme.com/news/music/lady-gaga-speech-mental-health-2400575#TitD8ZBT20RjsFBU.99

Music helps to build the brains of very premature babies

Source: University of Geneva

In Switzerland, as in most industrialized countries, nearly 1% of children are born “very prematurely”, i.e. before the 32nd week of pregnancy, which represents about 800 children yearly. While advances in neonatal medicine now give them a good chance of survival, these children are however at high risk of developing neuropsychological disorders. To help the brains of these fragile newborns develop as well as possible despite the stressful environment of intensive care, researchers at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG), Switzerland, propose an original solution: music written especially for them. And the first results, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in the United States, are surprising: medical imaging reveals that the neural networks of premature infants who have listened to this music, and in particular a network involved in many sensory and cognitive functions, are developing much better.

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the HUG welcomes each year 80 children born far too early – between 24 and 32 weeks of pregnancy, i.e. almost four months ahead of schedule for some of them. The vast majority will survive, but half will later develop neurodevelopmental disorders, including learning difficulties, attentional or emotional disorders. “At birth, these babies’ brains are still immature. Brain development must, therefore, continue in the intensive care unit, in an incubator, under very different conditions than if they were still in their mother’s womb,” explains Petra Hüppi, professor at the UNIGE Faculty of Medicine and Head of the HUG Development and Growth Division, who directed this work. “Brain immaturity, combined with a disturbing sensory environment, explains why neural networks do not develop normally.”

A tailor-made music

The Geneva researchers started from a practical idea: since the neural deficits of premature babies are due, at least in part, to unexpected and stressful stimuli as well as to a lack of stimuli adapted to their condition, their environment should be enriched by introducing pleasant and structuring stimuli. As the hearing system is functional early on, music appeared to be a good candidate. But which music? “Luckily, we met the composer Andreas Vollenweider, who had already conducted musical projects with fragile populations and who showed great interest in creating music suitable for premature children,” says Petra Hüppi.

Lara Lordier, PhD in neurosciences and researcher at the HUG and UNIGE, unfolds the musical creation process. “It was important that these musical stimuli were related to the baby’s condition. We wanted to structure the day with pleasant stimuli at appropriate times: music to accompany their awakening, music to accompany their falling asleep, and music to interact during the awakening phases.” To choose instruments suitable for these very young patients, Andreas Vollenweider played many kinds of instruments to the babies, in the presence of a nurse specialized in developmental support care. “The instrument that generated the most reactions was the Indian snake charmers’ flute (the punji),” recalls Lara Lordier. “Very agitated children calmed down almost instantly, their attention was drawn to the music!” The composer thus wrote three sound environments of eight minutes each, with punji, harp and bells pieces.

More efficient brain functional connections through music

The study was conducted in a double-blind study, with a group of premature infants who listened to the music, a control group of premature infants, and a control group of full-term newborns to assess whether the brain development of premature infants who had listened to the music would be more similar to that of full-term babies. Scientists used functional MRI at rest on all three groups of children. Without music, premature babies generally had poorer functional connectivity between brain areas than full-term babies, confirming the negative effect of prematurity. “The most affected network is the salience network which detects information and evaluates its relevance at a specific time, and then makes the link with the other brain networks that must act. This network is essential, both for learning and performing cognitive tasks as well as in social relationships or emotional management,” says Lara Lordier.

This shows a preterm baby listening to music

Premature baby listening to music.. The image is credited to Stéphane Sizonenko – UNIGE HUG.

In intensive care, children are overwhelmed by stimuli unrelated to their condition: doors open and close, alarms are triggered, etc. Unlike a full-term baby who, in utero, adjusts its rhythm to that of its mother, the premature baby in intensive care can hardly develop the link between the meaning of a stimulus in a specific context. On the other hand, the neural networks of children who heard Andreas Vollenweider’s music were significantly improved: the functional connectivity between the salience network and auditory, sensorimotor, frontal, thalamus and precuneus networks, was indeed increased, resulting in brain networks organisation more similar to that of full-term infants.

When children grow up

The first children enrolled in the project are now 6 years old, at which age cognitive problems begin to be detectable. Scientists will now meet again their young patients to conduct a full cognitive and socio-emotional assessment and observe whether the positive outcomes measured in their first weeks of life have been sustained.



You Can’t Change or Fix People, So Listen Instead

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” ~Ernest Hemingway

The chances are good that at some point in your life you had to deal with a loved one who consistently frustrated you. They were caught in a destructive pattern of behavior that made life difficult for them and everyone around them. How do you cope when this happens?

Perhaps you start avoiding them. And when that’s not possible, you choose to check out of any difficult conversation or interaction you’re having with them. You resign yourself to the belief that your loved one cannot and will not change their behavior.

Or perhaps you attempt a more active approach to the situation. You try to analyze your loved one the way a therapist might. You develop what you believe are perfect solutions for their problems and present them in the most convincing way you know how. Then you get frustrated when they reject your sage advice out of hand.

Here’s the thing: It’s not about changing or fixing them; they are your parents, siblings, or partners, after all—not broken machines in need of repair. And the best thing you can do in these situations is to give your loved one the space to expand their capacity for change.

I learned this the hard way with my mother. She’s struggled throughout her life with unchecked anxiety. She’s caught in a pattern of pessimism, which she frames as “realism.”

There’s rarely a day that goes by when she’s not consumed by one worry or another. And once she latches on to a concern, she can’t seem to let it go. It has to run its course. She’ll vent endlessly about her latest worry to any family member who happens to be available.

As a problem solver by nature, I’ve tried to offer advice and suggestions that I believe will help her to deal with her anxiety more effectively. Unfortunately, it’s an approach that has often backfired. My mother can get extremely defensive and lash out in ugly ways when confronted with the negative consequences of her behavior.

I remember a time when I suggested she’d benefit from the support of a counselor or therapist. Her memorable—and intensely hurtful—response was: “Therapy? Look at you! Ten years of talking to a shrink and you’re still a crazy bipolar!”

After a number of these unpleasant interactions, I decided enough was enough. I had to step back if only to preserve my sanity and well-being. I avoided getting into anything but the most mundane conversations with my mother. I didn’t talk about politics, religion, or other potentially divisive issues. And when she chose to rant about the way the world was conspiring against her, I’d tersely say, “Okay, Mom” or “whatever” before recusing myself from the discussion.

But this coping mechanism was only viable for a limited time and had diminishing returns. I certainly didn’t want to see my mother in a near-constant state of emotional distress, trying to swim against an overwhelming tide of anxiety.

I had to do something different than what I’d done in the past. So instead of jumping back into the fray, I paused. I used the time to examine how my behavior in our past interactions contributed to the problem. I took ownership of the part I’d been playing.

I realized that a lot of it came down to the way I’d been listening to my mother. Or, more accurately, the fact I that I wasn’t listening to her. Here’s what I needed to learn: sound listening skills can give a loved one the room to change destructive behaviors that adversely impact their lives—and yours.

Are you listening?

Do you think of yourself as a good listener? I certainly did. Unfortunately, if you’re anything like me, odds are that you overestimate how much listening you do during a conversation.

Here’s a test. The next time you find yourself in a difficult conversation with a loved one, approach it mindfully. When they are speaking, are you really paying attention? Or are you formulating your response before they’ve even finished their sentence?

If you catch yourself doing this, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s natural to want to share insights and suggestions that we believe will help loved ones in emotional distress. Unfortunately, our caring and concern can become impediments to the best, and often only, help we can offer them—our ability to listen.

When my mother would pour out a tale about her latest worry, I’d too often be preoccupied with crafting solutions for her problems.

Sometimes I’d interrupt in an attempt to keep her from dwelling on negative thoughts. I thought I could save her from getting caught in a downward spiral by offering suggestions for better managing her anxiety; for example, “Hey Mom, instead of fixating on the inevitability of worst-case scenarios, why not concentrate on what’s happening right now?”

I couldn’t understand why my advice was often met by resistance (“That will never work, I know it”) or even defiance (“That’s easy for you to say! You’re not the one dealing with this terrible situation”).

But here’s what I had failed to understand in that interaction and many others: My mother wasn’t asking for advice. She just wanted me to listen. And she absolutely did not want to be lectured about managing her emotional reactions to anxiety.

I learned some important lessons when I took the time to examine my actions, and I knew that my behavior had to change if I expected my mother to embrace change as well. And I needed to start by listening more effectively.

Message Received, Loud and Clear

When my mother is in the grip of anxiety and reaches out to me, I’ve learned to remind myself that in many cases, the less said, the better. It’s about being present, being mindful; this is what listening is all about.

Here are just a few ways to improve your ability to listen to a loved one:

 1. Acknowledge and validate.

Sometimes a simple nod of the head can be a powerful and validating signal of support for your loved one. The same goes for a well-placed “Mm-hmm.” These seemingly small acts show that you’re focusing on what they are saying. They also indicate that, at least for the moment, you are prioritizing their feelings over your own. And they are subtle enough expressions to avoid interrupting their train of thought.

I’ve found it helpful to remember that validation does not equal approval. I’ve learned that I don’t have to agree with my mother or approve of her behavior to effectively acknowledge her feelings.

2. Take a breath.

Notice your breath as you interact with your loved one. Are you holding it in as you anxiously await your turn to speak? If you’re out of breath when you respond, it can change your tone and perceived meaning. There’s a good chance you’ll sound harsher or more impatient than you intend to be.

In the past, I’ve noticed myself running out of oxygen in the middle of challenging conversations with my mother. I’ve since learned to take it as a sign that I need to take a step back and bring myself into the present.

3. Sometimes the best advice is none at all.

It’s not easy to resist the temptation to dispense advice to a loved one who we perceive as needing the benefit of our counsel. But the danger of offering unsolicited advice to a loved one is this: it shows a lack of faith in them. And the more advice you dispense, the more you are suggesting that your ideas and solutions are better than any they can come up with themselves. You also risk condescension, no matter how noble your intentions may be.

My well intended but untimely suggestions for my mother came across as directives and judgments. My mother interpreted them as challenges to her competency and doubts in her ability to manage her life. I was indirectly telling her that I didn’t believe in her capacity to change.

As I learned, our faith or lack thereof in our loved ones changes our behavior, often in significant yet subtle ways. And a change in our behavior can lead to a corresponding change in our loved one. When they know we are in their corner, they begin to develop a belief in their ability to grow.

Seeing is Believing

I’ve seen some encouraging signs of growth in my mother since I decided to examine and adapt my behavior. While she still struggles with anxiety, she’s taken some big steps toward better managing it. She’s taken up meditation. She has a yoga practice. And yes, she’s even been willing to talk to a therapist.

I certainly can’t claim credit for her decision to take her emotional and mental health more seriously. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence these developments have come during a period in which I’ve given her the room to change.

So pause. Take a breath. Relax. And the next time a loved one is about to drive you out the door, give them some space to speak and express their emotions. Listen and be present. Trust your loved one to do the best they can at that moment. Embrace the notion that just like anyone else, they can change and yes, they even have a right to do so. Just like you.

You Can’t Change or Fix People, So Listen Instead

Join us Tuesday 18th June for FREE CPD accredited Module 1 mental health and suicide awareness training

Who – Members of the community and volunteer’s

What – FREE mental health and suicide awareness training

When – Tuesday 18th June 2019

Where – The Well, Hospital Road, Retford, DN22 7BD

Why – to increase awareness of people in our communities and volunteers involved in community schemes about mental health and suicide prevention and to reduce stigma.

Learning outcomes:

  • Define the term mental health, using the mental health continuum
  • Recognise the signs of mental ill health and suicide risk
  • Explore the links between physical and mental health
  • Increase awareness of the impact of attitudes and beliefs that lead to stigma and discrimination around mental ill health and suicide
  • Understand the Five Ways to Wellbeing and Safe to Talk about Suicide
  • Increase confidence in having a conversation with someone in distress and supporting them to seek help
  • Understanding the wider impact of emotional distress on friends and family


For more information or to book a place call Let’s Talk Training on 0115 880 0281 or email training@harmless.org.uk


Alternatively you can register your interest on Eventbrite using the following link


Actions speak louder in the bathroom (in fact, anywhere)

Why drying your toes is such an important detail to attend to…

A blog by Pam Burrows .

C is for Compassion
How you treat yourself

When you’re in a hurry

When you’ve got a lot to do and not enough time, what gets missed?
Do you dry your toes properly?
Do you bother to find your favourite mug?
Do you prepare something nice to eat…or grab and run?

Why it matters

These things might seem like an effective way to gain a little extra time back, you know, for those really important things you’re trying to cram into your day…BUT…
Those really important things are most likely going to be for someone else’s benefit.
What are you missing out on as a result, and does it really benefit you in terms of time?


My early career in childcare taught me many things. One was ‘You can’t rush a toddler’. Whether it’s eating, drinking, washing, dressing or walking, the more you rush, the more they push back.
Imagine taking a little extra time and paying a little extra attention to soothe, encourage and be alongside that toddler. No guarantees now, but if any method was going to help rather than hinder, it would be the soothing, encouraging one.

What appeals to you?

A little Compassion goes a long way. Which of the following little acts of compassion appeals to you most?

  • Imagine getting out of the shower or bath and taking a little time and attention to properly dry between all your little nooks and crannies. Not necessarily because it’s essential, but because the message you’re sending yourself is one of value and care.
  • How about taking a moment to decide what you’d really like to eat rather than grabbing the quickest thing.
  • Or taking a moment before you get out of the car before you head into the next busy thing you’ve got to do.

What could be your choice of a little kindness to yourself?There might be something at the back of your mind, a particular daily activity that you’d enjoy taking a little more time and attention over.

Just a minute

And as is often the case, it doesn’t actually have to take a huge amount of time. It’s about the intention to apply a little compassion to yourself in the way that you probably do for others, all day long!
Some of these choices might not even take any extra time, they are about having the intention of showing yourself some compassion.

My toes

The toe drying thing was definitely one of mine, a few years back and I notice when I don’t bother is when I’m getting a little too busy and thinking the little things don’t matter.
When I do take the time, I feel nurtured, and that I can cope with what the day brings because I’m in a more calm, observant state.

A practical step

Mostly when I talk about the C of my CARE wellbeing model, I talk about not beating yourself up and being Kind in Your Mind. But we also need to remember that actions speak louder than words. Those little kindnesses you can choose to do for yourself could be just the ticket to reduce your stress, calm things down and little and give yourself the kind of nurturing you might have been waiting for. Wait no longer, show yourself a little nurturing.
Because you’re worth it 😉

Big love to you and your little nooks and crannies,

Pam x

PS The video this week is Red Flag number 26 from my Burnout Buster Book – those days when you just don’t seem to be ‘in the moment’ – see what you can do about it…


An office cat or dog won’t just lower your stress levels — it may also boost your productivity

For bigger companies like Google, it’s nothing unusual to take your dog to the office but the same seems to be the case for a lot of Dutch companies too — on LinkedIn, there are currently 75 active vacancies at Dutch companies that mention an office dog.

Nowadays, it seems it’s not such an outlandish idea to have a pet in the office — there are actually quite a few advantages. For example, a few years ago, research by Virginia Commonwealth University showed that people experience less stress when a dog is around.

Researchers took saliva samples from factory employees and looked at how much of the stress hormone cortisol was in it. The results showed that only the employees who had had a dog in their vicinity had low cortisol levels by the end of the day.

“It’s definitely good for the work atmosphere to have a dog in the office,” said Marie-José Enders, who studies the relationship between animals and humans at the Open University. “Not only does your cortisol level drop when you stroke a dog; you also produce more of the hormone oxytocin, which makes you feel more relaxed and happy.”

Having pets in the office also has other bonuses

“An animal at work makes people more motivated — they like their work more and they experience less stress.”

Esther Jonker, owner of labradoodle Joep, noticed all these effects in video marketing company TVMC’s office where she works.

“I’ve been taking Joep to the office every day for about two years now,” she said, “and he usually lifts the atmosphere considerably. If we’re all a bit engrossed in something, he’ll notice, he’ll pop over and he’ll press his nose against you for a stroke.”

“When we’ve been very busy working on something, it’s nice to play with Joep,” she said. “I think it makes us more productive.”

Joep also brings a lot of fun to the office. “If you put your bag on the floor and there are treats inside, he always manages to fish them out — and sometimes he steals things, then runs through the whole office with a stack of paper or something.”

One thing about the set-up that isn’t quite as popular?

“The walking,” said Jonker, “especially in winter.”

In spite of this, both Jonker and Kusse think office pets are also good for team morale.

“We often laugh together about Sammie,” said Kusse, “She’s scared of the printer and loves to climb into any box she can get her paws on. She often comes to the office with mice too, although some aren’t too keen on that! It’s just entertaining to watch her. Taking care of Sammie together works well for team spirit.”

What’s the best way of choosing the right pet for your office?

According to behavioral psychologist Lotte Spijkerman, dogs and cats have roughly the same psychological effect on people.

In the case of, say, a hamster, the effect is less pronounced — but if you don’t feel like changing litter boxes or taking the dog for a walk, they’re a bit more of a low maintenance option.

Fish tank goldfish
A fish tank has about the same effect on people as watching a hearth fire.
 Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty

“Watching fish can also be very relaxing”, says Spijkerman. “A fish tank has about the same effect on people as watching a hearth fire. That goes for birds or anything natural in the office, like plants. Even smells can have a soothing effect, with citrus smells being useful for calming.”

“You can give a colleague the responsibility of ensuring people get enough rest,” said Spijkerman. “They can tell you from time to time that you need a break or that it’s time for a walk.”

An office pet may even help you get to know colleagues more quickly

Office animals have another effect that can be crucial to the success of your business.

“They ‘re a great ice-breaker,” said Spijkerman.

“We know from psychology that if you find someone nicer, you move with him or her faster. And if someone looks like you, because he also has a dog, for example, it could be easier to make a deal. “

Nerdery office dog in meeting
According to Enders, people with a dog are perceived as friendlier.

“People with a dog are perceived as friendlier,” said Enders.

Jonker claims to have observed that Joep has this effect on her clients.

Kusse said the same was the case with Sammie.

“At Christmas, our contacts get a Christmas card with Sammie on it. She represents us and she’s our pet. She’s always there, even over the weekend. The cleaners and a colleague who lives in the neighborhood ensure that he gets enough attention and food.”

Kusse said she could no longer imagine an office without Sammie. “I really don’t want to think about what we would do if Sammie weren’t around anymore,” she said. “We’re really fond of her. I think if she weren’t there, we’d definitely have to have another cat.”

The world’s first mental health ambulance arrives in Sweden

Over 1,500 suicides and 15,000 suicide attempts are reported annually in Sweden. In order to tackle this, Stockholm’s care services have introduced the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PAM) – an ambulance dedicated only to mental health care. It’s the first of its kind in the world, essentially an emergency response therapy room that can travel at 70 miles per hour.

As it speeds across the city, PAM looks like the conventional ambulance. On the inside, however, comfortable seats have replaced stretchers, and the bright lights have been altered for a warmer glow.

The response team includes two mental health nurses and one paramedic. In Sweden, the police traditionally handle these emergency cases. By making trained professionals available for emergency response, the quality of care provided is improved. It has also minimised the stigmatization of patients with psychiatric problems.

In Stockholm, PAM responds to over 130 calls per month on average. The vast majority of these calls relate to suicidal risk.

Anki Björnsdotter works as a mental health nurse, and gave a small insight into working with PAM:

What is a typical kind of call you get?

We help people who are suicidal and people who suffer from severe mental illness. It can be someone who is manic and not aware of their own mental state, such as a person who needs to go to a hospital without realising they need to. Also, people who are psychotic and people suffering from schizophrenia who haven’t taken their medicine and are in distress.

It used to be the police who handled these kinds of calls. But just the presence of the police can easily cause a patient to feel like they’ve done something wrong. Mental illness is nothing criminal so it doesn’t make sense to be picked up by the police.

How do you handle these cases?

When we first arrive at the scene, we evaluate the situation. If it’s a suicide case, it can take some time before you reach a contact person or someone who’s able to calm the patient down. We talk to the person in order to make a call about whether we should bring the patient to the hospital, or give them a ride home.

For example, if we get a call about a person on a bridge about to commit suicide and things have cooled down by the time we arrive, we might consider the situation and decide that, in this particular case, the patient won’t try to commit suicide after all and won’t need to be hospitalised.

During its first year of operation, PAM was requested 1,580 times, and had 1,254 cases attended to. That’s an average of 4.3 requests and 3.4 cases per day. 1,036 individuals of all ages were attended to, and 96 of them had contact more than once. One third of all attended cases resulted in no further action after a psychiatric assessment and sometimes crisis intervention had been made on site.

It is a scheme that is widely believed in, offering the right response to such delicate emergencies. PAM plans to continue operating in Stockholm after a successful trial, according to Fredrik Bengtsson, Head of Mental Health Emergency at Sabbatsberg Hospital. “I can’t see any reason as to why the project shouldn’t continue,” Bengtsson told VICE Sweden. “It has been considered a huge success by police, nurses, healthcare officials, as well as by the patients.”

Currently, Stockholm is the only Swedish city to have taken such measures to reduce suicide rates. However, Because of its success, other regions – like Skåne, Örebro, Blekinge and Jönköping are all looking into the possibility of using PAM. In Gothenburg, they have already set up a scheme that takes mental health nurses to emergencies by car, again delivering the right type of care for patients suffering from poor mental health.

The world’s first mental health ambulance arrives in Sweden


Today, our wonderful colleague and friend Val, has left her Senior Therapist role at Harmless. 

Val has been working for Harmless since 2013, but joined our organisation as a volunteer before she started her counselling role.

Over the years, Val has helped countless number of people with their recovery, and for the many who met her, life got better thanks to her valuable support.

On her last day, The Harmless team presented Val with flowers, and a memory book which contained messages from colleagues and photos from her time with us.

From everyone at Harmless and The Tomorrow Project, we wish Val all the very best in the future. She knows that she will always be part of the Harmless family!

I had postnatal depression as a new father. Mental health checks for dads should be expanded

New and expectant fathers will be offered mental health assessments if their partner is suffering from depression or anxiety, NHS England recently announced.

The NHS described the plan as “radical” and a “landmark move”. While it is vital that fathers whose partners are suffering get support, the plan still falls far short of what new fathers need. I would know. I was diagnosed with postnatal depression after my son was born and under the proposed plans, my symptoms would still be missed by the NHS.

Postnatal depression is a non-psychotic depressive disorder that can occur after the birth of a child. Between 6-13 per cent of new mothers will suffer from postnatal depression, with symptoms including persistent sadness or low mood, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed, and thoughts of suicide.

Postnatal depression in new mothers results in poorer mother-child attachmentshorter breastfeeding duration and poor child development. The cost to society is huge. In the UK, every case of maternal depression costs, on average, £74,000, with the bulk of this relating to the negative effects on the child.

Some people, including scientists, used to think that postnatal depression was mainly a result of hormonal changes post-birth, or experiences that are specific to women, including delivery complications or unsuccessful breastfeeding. But there is now wider recognition that postnatal depression can also affect new fathers. In fact, recent studies have suggested that between 8 and 11 per cent of new fathers suffer from postnatal depression.

And as with maternal postnatal depression, the condition can seriously impair father-child attachment and the nature of a father’s interactions with their child, and it can also increase behavioural and emotional difficulties in the child. Fathers with depression are also about 20 times more likely to consider suicide compared with non-depressed fathers.

Many factors are known to contribute to postnatal depression in new fathers. The most common is maternal postnatal depression. Fathers whose partners have postnatal depression are about two-and-a-half times more likely to have symptoms of depression six weeks after the birth of a child. This is why NHS England’s plan to screen fathers whose partner is suffering from mental health conditions is important and will mean many more men will receive the care they need.

But this focus still ignores new fathers, like me, whose partners do not have a pre-existing mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression. Instead, a more holistic account of the mental health of new fathers would consider their previous history of mental illness and the psychological and social context of fatherhood. For example, men often report large discrepancies between the expectations and realities of childbirth in the postnatal period. And men who experience greater difficulties with childcare.

Postnatal depression in dads can lead to behaviour problems in children

New fathers are also more likely than new mothers to return to work sooner and, in many parts of society, men are still expected to be the breadwinners. Yet new fathers are also expected to play an active role in childcare, and difficulties managing an early return to work with childcare responsibilities can contribute to symptoms of depression.

New fathers can also have difficulty developing an emotional bond with their child compared with mothers, which may increase feelings of helplessness.

But when new fathers get depressed, they are still less likely than new mothers to have their symptoms caught and are more likely to go untreated. In part, this may be because men are reluctant to disclose symptoms of mental ill health, especially if such disclosures are seen as inconsistent with ideals of masculinity. But it may also be because healthcare practitioners do not recognise depression in new fathers or provide opportunities for new fathers to raise concerns about their mental health.

In the UK, for example, the tradition of health visiting is heavily focused on mothers and children, and some health visitors are reluctant to address postnatal depression in men. As a result, fathers end up feeling overlooked following the birth of a child and their experiences rendered invisible.

The invisibility of depressive symptoms in new fathers is important because it often forces men to manage their symptoms on their own, leaving them frustrated when they are unable to do so. New fathers may also end up questioning the legitimacy of their depressive experiences and avoid or delay seeking help, as a result.

While the plans by NHS England are an important first step, there is a risk that many new fathers will continue to be let down through under-diagnosis or a lack of attention to the mental healthcare needs of new fathers. Instead, what is needed is routine screening of new fathers for depression and other mental health conditions, so that all new parents are treated equally. This, in turn, requires that healthcare practitioners who are most likely to meet new fathers have the appropriate education, training and time to engage with fathers too.