Whether it’s due to lack of sleep, money worries or new responsibilities, many men struggle to cope with all the challenges a new-born brings.
Ford offers paternity workshops that enable employees to share their experiences and fears as they prepare for parenthood, as part of the company’s broader occupational health strategy to provide a range of mental health and psychological services, as well as resilience and stress management training.
What began as an information session on parenting policies has now expanded to include the psychological aspects of becoming a dad, how to support one’s partner and how to build a family support network. Expectant fathers are informed about postnatal depression and how best to cope with mental health issues. Those running the program are certified mental health first aid trainers and will soon support parents with one-to-one counselling to discuss their concerns and anxieties.
“Many new dads have no idea that men suffer from postnatal depression. There is a tendency to bottle up emotions, stay silent or simply withdraw into themselves, to the point their work and family life suffer beyond repair.” said Lara Nicoll, manager, Diversity and Inclusion, Ford of Britain. “Creating an environment where men can talk openly about their anxiety enables them to feel less isolated and become the dads they want to be.”
In the U.K., Ford has for more than two decades offered maternity workshops, covering flexible work options, statutory entitlements and well-being. The paternity workshops are an extension of this program. New dads also try on a pregnancy suit, which gives an insight into how their partners may be feeling, carrying the weight of a baby.
Research shows that 25 per cent of men suffer from postnatal depression in the first three to six months after their child is born, almost twice the rate of depression normally seen in men. One-in-ten expectant fathers will also become depressed during their partner’s pregnancy. First-time fathers, men under 25 and those with a history of mental health issues are particularly vulnerable.
Ford’s paternity workshops take place three times a year and are part of the company’s gender and diversity strategy. In the U.K., a 24-hour helpline enables employees to seek assistance for their mental health issues. Parents and parents-to-be in the U.K. and Germany can also seek assistance from the Ford Parent Network, an open forum for parents to share advice and information.
Ford of Britain is a member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Working Forward campaign, which encourages the adoption of flexible working and the support of maternity and paternity rights in the workplace. In 2018, Ford launched the “Elephant in the Transit” campaign with the Time to Change organisation to raise awareness of mental health in the workplace.
“We know it can be hard to talk about mental health, especially in a workplace setting. We commend Ford for creating the space for male employees to speak openly and honestly about their experiences, and the topic of mental health in general. Everyone’s attitude makes a difference, and by bringing the subject of paternal mental health into the light, Ford is paving the way for men to seek support without stigma or fear of judgement,” said Jo Loughran, director, Time to Change.
Ford in Germany offers psychological support through its medical department, while Ford in Romania provides one-to-one counselling for all mental health issues.