Today is International Fathers’ Mental Health Day, and to mark this important occasion esteemed academics, clinicians and dads’ mental health activists are sharing posts, videos, blogs, articles and semi-naked photographs in a bid to raise awareness of the fact that one in 10 fathers experience postnatal depression, and a whopping 38% are worried about their mental health.
As a father, friend, colleague, brother-in-law, son and human, I find these statistics frightening. Partly because I’ve barely seen any mainstream media coverage of this issue. But mainly because I’ve only ever had one dad open up to me about his mental health (and he was a stranger who did it in an email).
So what’s the deal? Why are we dads so good at discussing sport, technology and our top five burger chains, but so bad at discussing, you know, um, well, our feelings? I’ve had a think, scratched my scalp and come up with the following.
1. We don’t want to make a fuss
Should you tell your doctor that you’re increasingly feeling overwhelmed by fatherhood, life, your job and your general place in society? Nah, it’s probably just a slight blip, so it’s better to stay quiet than risk wasting the medical professional’s time. Plus, you don’t really have a decent reason for feeling low after having a kid. I mean, it’s not like you went through the trauma of giving birth or anything.
Serious note to finish: it’s not just mental health issues that men are keeping on the down low – according to a 2014 study, we’re also 50% less likely to go to the doctor than women are.
2. Male conversations don’t really ‘go there’
A long, long time ago in a land far, far away a group of mates decided that they would attempt to forego deep and meaningful conversations in favour of keeping the chat light and ‘banter-ful’. And do you know what? They had a great night.
Word of this landmark occasion quickly spread and before we knew it the male species had become incredibly proficient at serving up frivolous, stats-based ‘pub ammo’, but incredibly inefficient at dishing up anything to do with our true feelings.
Or that’s what I like to imagine happened, anyway. In reality, we’ve probably just been rubbish at discussing our emotions from the beginning.
3. We’re not really sure where to start
Even if male conversations did cover emotions and stuff, how do you expect us to kick off a topic as serious as dads’ mental health issues?
“Hey Paul, did you see that Ronaldo hat-trick? Fancy a coffee? And did you know that I’ve been really down since having a kid and don’t think my partner understands me?”
Serious note to finish: if you are struggling to cope – or have a feeling that your friend is experiencing mental health issues – and are worried about how to broach this potentially awkward subject, Time to Talk has some great tips for starting the conversation.
4. We still think having a dads’ mental health issue is…
…Weak, innit. Or a sign of failure, an admittance of defeat, or some other ridiculous and incorrect notion that I’d love to pretend men had evolved beyond. The sad truth, however, is that we haven’t. The vast majority of men with mental health issues still suffer in silence for fear of being branded “less of a man”. Thus the more publicity we can give to forward-thinking events like International Fathers’ Mental Health Day, the better.
Serious note to finish: if you are a dad suffering from mental health issues, you are not alone and you are most certainly not less of a man. Please speak to a friend or loved one and check out the following resources…
- PANDAS – This foundation provides specific information for men experiencing postnatal depression.
- The Dad Network – To repeat: you are not alone. This community of 12,500 fathers are out to help each other overcome the challenges of being a dad.
- Mind – The mental health charity offers information and support for everyone living with a mental health issue.
Got that? Good, now go forth, confront your emotions and spread the word. Until next time…