Don’t ignore dads, message of book on parental mental health
When asked to describe the primary message of “Parental Mental Health: Factoring in Fathers,” Jane Honikman, co-author with Dr. Daniel B. Singley, likes to quote Dr. Joe Johnson, a retired psychiatrist from Sansum Clinic.
“This book is a comforting and compassionate effort to bring dads front and center where they should be in the parenting paradigm.”
Or as Ms. Honikman, well known in Santa Barbara as the founder of PEP or Postpartum Education for Parents in 1977 and Postpartum Support International in 1987, writes in the 92-page soft cover book published by Dowitcher Designs:
“We have written this book because men have not been well-represented in the parental mental health movement. While we have advanced our understanding of maternal mental health, the field, as a whole, has failed to include their partners. We are feminists and see men and women as equals, while acknowledging key differences.
“We want to shift the focus of the maternal mental health movement to a parental mental health approach that includes the mental well-being of all parents, no matter what the gender. This includes mental wellness beyond the perinatal period.”
Ms. Honikman, 74, said she enlisted the help of Dr. Singley, who lives in San Diego, “because he is two things I am not— a man and a clinical psychologist. He is the father of two sons and the founder of the Center for Men’s Excellence, which focuses on men’s health issues including early fatherhood.”
Ms. Honikman and Dr. Singley, who earned his doctorate at the University of Maryland, have managed to pack a great deal of information in the pages of the small book, which includes “Tools that Rock: Resources for Dads and the People Who Support Them” and Facebook Dad Groups.
Among the most meaningful is the chapter titled “A Call to Action,” which lists the 10 most important takeaways from the book:
- Acknowledge the fact that an egg requires a sperm for pregnancy.
- Pay attention to the medical needs of men, too.
- Ask thoughtful questions as the pregnant couple is transitioning from being a duo to parenthood.
- Know the truth — having a baby is hard on relationships and marriage.
- Men have hormones, too.
- Watch for depression and anxiety.
- Fathers and mothers need to sleep, eat well, exercise, have time for themselves, share their emotions and get support.
- Embrace gender-inclusive language.
- Recognize and question harmful and sexist assumptions about men and masculinities.
- Take action. Start this conversation within yourself and your community and make a difference.
“We invite you to join the Parental Mental Health Movement. Social advocacy and action are required to meet the needs of ALL pregnant and postpartum families,” writes Ms. Honikman.
“Our children will benefit from listening to and supporting both parents.”