Investigators: Amy Finlay-Jones
Project team members: Tess Fletcher, Jack Brett
Collaborators: Richard Fletcher (UoN)
Partners: PANDA, RedNose, University of Newcastle, Indigenous HealthInfoNet
SMS4RRdads is a digital prevention and early intervention service that will engage, screen and support expectant and new fathers experiencing or at risk of perinatal mental illness. The SMS4dads program utilises phone-optimized, web-based software to deliver texts to mobile phones anywhere in Australia. The service has been tested with over 3,000 new fathers to date. SMS4dads engages and connects with men as they transition to fatherhood delivering texts linked to online resources addressing father-infant and father-partner relationships and regularly checking on their wellbeing and mental health. The messages are linked to their infant’s development and arrive without requiring fathers to present at a clinic, log on to a web program or in any way declare publicly that they are not coping. The soft entry provided by SMS4dads addresses two key barriers limiting father's access to mental health services: the lack of recognition among men that they might be experiencing depression or anxiety and the stigma of acknowledging publicly that they might need help
for mental health. Both barriers are particularly relevant in rural and remote areas. Three underserved and vulnerable population groups in rural and remote areas are targeted:
- Fathers/partners of new mothers with mental illness
- Young Indigenous fathers
- Fathers whose partners have miscarried or where the infant has died
For each population, a key national body will co-design a media and community engagement strategy to: a) raise awareness of paternal mental health and fathers/partners’ role in supporting maternal mental health
b) connect with new fathers through the SMS4dads service to appropriate parenting and mental health services.
The national strategy will utilise the expertise and reach of partner organisations to provide information and education for health workers and deliver community engagement through local champions. For indigenous communities, MOUs will ensure Indigenous leadership and governance of project activities.
Head, Early Neurodevelopment & Mental Health; Healthway WA Senior Research Fellow+61 8 6319 1808 Email me LinkedIn