Words to listen out for

Being alert to the language used by fathers and non-birthing parents is also important as their word choices, or body language (For example, their eye contact), may be a signal as to how they are feeling or coping with parenthood. The following words may be red flags that a father, or any parent, may be struggling, depressed or even suicidal1. If you hear them, prompt a deeper conversation to explore the extent of the parent’s feelings and the support required. Provide information about support services and encourage them to seek help if needed.


Words to listen out for Possible questions to prompt a deeper conversation
stressed Can you tell me a bit more about the stress that you are feeling?

Is your tiredness worse than you would have expected with a new baby?

How difficult do you find it to fall asleep when you have the chance?

If you are woken through the night, how hard is it to return to sleep?

Do you feel refreshed when you wake up? (Consider administering the Epworth Sleepiness Scale to see if there is any risk that needs to be managed)

Are you more tired at certain times of the day? (Depression and anxiety are often worse at the beginning of the day)

Are you so tired that you are worried it might affect your ability to stay safe (For example, falling asleep at times when you shouldn’t, not getting things done that you need to, etc.)?

not going too well Can you tell me more about what you are struggling with?
down in the dumps What does “down in the dumps” mean to you? How often do you have a low mood?  Can you enjoy any of the things you used to enjoy before?

You said you were feeling ‘useless’. Can you tell me what has led to you feeling that way?

Do you feel useless frequently? (Consider mental health screening or referral as appropriate.)

worthless Can you tell me what is going on that has led you to feel this way?
hopeless Can you see that anything will improve in the future? Are there any things you are still looking forward to?
I’ve had enough

Can you tell me more about the things you are struggling with?

Have things been so bad that you have thought about harming yourself or others?

(If they say yes, consider a suicide risk assessment and/or high priority referral to relevant support services.)

pointless Can you tell me more about feeling things are pointless?
over it Do you feel this way about everything in your life or just parenting? Is there anything that helps you keep going?

Continue reading: It’s not just about what you say


Additional resources

PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) supports women, men and families across Australia affected by anxiety and depression during pregnancy and in the first year of parenthood. Call 1300 726 306, 9am – 7:30pm AEST (Mon-Fri).

Lifeline provides 24-hour crisis counselling, support groups and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14, text on 0477 13 11 14 (12pm to midnight AEST) or chat online.

Beyond Blue aims to increase awareness of depression and anxiety and reduce stigma. Call 1300 22 4636, 24 hours/7 days a week, chat online or email.

MensLine Australia is a professional telephone and online counselling service offering support to Australian men. Call 1300 78 9978, 24 hours/7 days a week, chat online or organise a video chat

Suicide Call Back Service provides 24/7 support if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal. Call 1300 659 467.

RaisingChildren.net.au is an Australian parenting website that provides resources for fathers and all non-birthing parents


Talking to Dads: Words to listen out for



1. Shand FL, Proudfoot J, Player MJ, et al. What might interrupt men’s suicide? Results from an online survey of men. BMJ Open 2015;5:e008172. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-008172