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The text message raised suspicions when she saw it pop up on her husband's phone: "When you look into my eyes, I know that you're really thinking about me."
But the man explained to his wife it was not from another woman but from SMS4dads, a smartphone program for first-time fathers. The message was written from the perspective of the couple's new baby, to encourage father-child bonding.
Developed by the University of Newcastle with beyondblue and the Movember Foundation, the world-first service sends men regular messages with advice and information – synchronised to their baby's development – and a mood tracker to help them care for themselves while caring for their family.
"It's like a mate looking after you," said the SMS4dads project leader, Associate Professor Richard Fletcher.
Sydney father Stephen Donohue, 31, signed up for SMS4dads when his son was born last year. "I appreciated information coming to me via text, offering support if and when needed," he said.
Mr Donohue said it was not just society that expected more of fathers these days "but dads themselves, because we have seen and heard about the importance of the role dads play".
"It's really hard finding the balance – of work, of recreation, of family time, of making sure that I'm playing my part as dad and not just sitting on the sidelines," he said. "There's a lot of pressure ... to be doing everything."
Becoming a father is a high-risk time for mental distress for men, adjusting to major lifestyle changes and juggling the responsibilities caring for a newborn while working harder than ever to make up for their partner's lost income.
Research shows one in 10 first-time dads develop postnatal depression and one in seven experience a high level of psychological distress. But according to beyondblue, 44 per cent do not seek information or support while under stress and 43 per cent see anxiety and depression after having a baby as a sign of weakness.
SMS4dads makes it easy for fathers to find support; those who consistently register a low mood receive assistance and follow-up from the PANDA helpline.
The project manager for beyondblue, Dr Luke Martin, said men could be "reluctant to seek help because they want to be the one supporting their family, not the one needing support".
"They feel they have to be the rock," he said. But men needed to know that "one of the best things you can do to support your family is to get some support yourself".
Dr Fletcher, from the Family Action Centre at the University of Newcastle's faculty of health and medicine, said "the evidence is much clearer now that if the father is depressed and not getting help, the children are going to be affected". His research has found that children are three times more likely to have behaviour problems if, in their first year of life, their father had symptoms of depression.
Ninety-two per cent of fathers trialling SMS4dads found it helpful. There are hopes it will become an ongoing national program and Dr Fletcher has been in discussions about expanding it internationally.
He expects trial results will show the program helps to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression for first-time dads. There would be economic benefits as well - in 2012, an Australian study found depression in new fathers cost almost $18 million in healthcare costs and $224 million in lost productivity.
"We would like to see it widely used, helping health departments save money," Dr Fletcher said.
New fathers and fathers-to-be can register at sms4dads.com.