More than half of new dads in football study feel they have no support for their mental health

The Mental Health Foundation and the Fatherhood Institute produce ‘Becoming Dad’ a guide to support new Dads

The Dads and Football project report by the Mental Health Foundation, released today (Friday 19 November) to mark International Men’s Day, finds very little support available for new Dads as they face the challenges that entering fatherhood brings.

Dads and Football, a 2-year project funded by the Wellcome Trust, in partnership with Cardiff City Football Club Community Foundation and Cardiff University’s National Centre for Mental Health, was created to support new Dads in response to the inadequate provision that is currently available.  

Initially taking the format of 5-a side football, bringing Dads together through their love of 'the beautiful game' – the football games were quashed due to the pandemic and quickly replaced by online peer support sessions.  Dads and players from Cardiff City including Will Vaulks, (an expectant Dad at the time), joined the groups to discuss how the life change had impacted them. 91 Dads were also consulted on their views through an online survey.

Will said: “I’ve learnt a lot from my involvement in the project. It was a pleasure speaking with those involved about their experiences as fathers, I found it really helpful for my preparations.”
Jenny Burns, Associate Director for Wales at the Mental Health Foundation, said: “There is very little research undertaken on Dads’ perinatal mental health and more generally, men’s life-changing transition to fatherhood. This is reflected in the lack of support currently available to them. The findings from Dads and Football show how much support is wanted and needed by new Dads - our online survey revealed that 56% of Dads said groups for men to meet up and share experiences would be helpful and didn’t currently exist. The Mental Health Foundation wants the Welsh Government to recognise this gap, and to include perinatal mental health screening and support for both parents as part of midwifery assessments in their forthcoming mental health strategy.”

The survey conducted through the Dads and Football project found that 70% of Dads want more information on what to expect when becoming a Dad. In response to the need expressed by Dads, the Foundation teamed up with the Fatherhood Institute to create ‘Becoming Dad’, a useful guide for new dads containing the most up-to-date research and information, lots of practical tips, advice and signposts to many organisations that can help when various issues arise.

The Fatherhood Institute’s Dr Jeremy Davies, who wrote the Becoming Dad guide, said: “For far too long, fathers have been an afterthought in perinatal services, despite strong evidence of their huge impact on infant and maternal outcomes – and of the challenges, they may themselves experience as they embark on their journeys into fatherhood. Men have a lot to do and think about as new dads, and they need more support. We’re delighted to have written Becoming Dad to help them on their way.”

The ‘Becoming Dad’ guide is free and can be downloaded here.


Notes to editors

The Dads and Football project report can be found here.

Interviews with expert spokespeople and participants of the Dads and Football project are available on request. 

91 participants completed the online survey

A Research Consortium was established, consisting of leading experts in the field of perinatal mental health, to share evidence and information, understand where the gaps are in research and operate as an advisory panel and critical friend to the project.

  • Adrienne Burgess, Fatherhood Institute
  • Dr Iryna Culpin, Bristol University
  • Dr Kate Ellis-Davies, Swansea University
  • Sharon Fernandez, Perinatal Mental Health Lead, NHS Wales
  • Suzy Hodgson, Sheffield Hallam University
  • Professor Ian Jones, Cardiff University, National Centre for Mental Health
  • Dr Anna Machin, Researcher, and author, ‘Life of Dad’
  • Professor Andrew Mayers, Bournemouth University
  • Professor Paul Ramchandani, Cambridge University 

A Dads Champions Group representing a wide cross-section of highly respected organisations working with and for Dads across the UK, also came onboard to increase understanding of what Dads need.

For further information and interview requests please contact Natalie Sadler, Communications and Marketing Manager for Wales at Mental Health Foundation on email [email protected] or Dr Jeremy Davies, Head of Communications for the Fatherhood Institute, [email protected]

For urgent out of hours enquiries please call the Mental Health Foundation on 07702 873999.  For Fatherhood Institute call 0780 3711692.

About the Mental Health Foundation 

Our vision is of good mental health for all.

The Mental Health Foundation works to prevent mental health problems.

We drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all, and support communities, families and individuals to lead mentally healthy lives with a particular focus on those at greatest risk.

The Foundation is the home of Mental Health Awareness Week.