Men are to be given counselling for postnatal depression on the National Health Service under a new pilot scheme by mental health charity Mind. The scheme, called Fathers Matter, will be the first of its kind in Britain.

Experts believe the condition may affect up to one in 14 new fathers, who will now be able to call a special helpline and join fortnightly group meetings with Mind.

The subject of whether men can suffer from postnatal depression has long been debated among medical experts, but the organisers of the project hope that the pilot, in Basildon, Essex, will lead to a nationwide network of counselling for male postnatal depression.

The scheme, which starts in November, was the idea of Mary Alabaster, the manager of maternal mental health services at the South Essex Partnership NHS Trust.

A spokesperson said: "We are extremely proud of Mary and her ground-breaking work, which showed that fathers weren't getting as much support as they need.

"Pregnancy and the arrival of a new baby can be a stressful time for dads too, and Mary's pilot scheme looks to give new fathers access to psychological support and counselling.

But Dr John Cobb, a fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists is sceptical about whether the condition can be found in men. He said many men get depressed after their wives have a baby but that this was not the same as postnatal depression.

He told The Sunday Telegraph: "It sounds helpful for men to discuss the problems that they are having. It is also true that men may well get depressed after their wives have a baby, but this is the same as any other form of depression. It is not postnatal depression.

He added: "In women, postnatal depression is a separate entity from other types of depression because it involves major hormonal factors and major physical factors."

A spokesman for Mind said: "We realise that Childbirth can put a lot of pressure on dads as well as mums, and it is about time they were offered some help.

"We are acutely aware of a lack of facilities for men both nationally and in the area. We were therefore delighted to provide a venue for this enterprise, which is aimed at helping mental health in men."

The scheme will be funded by a £3,500 grant from the Queen's Nursing Institute, a charity which supports community health schemes.