Dad's Struggle with Mental Health is Neglected by Society

These days, men's mental wellbeing is more on the societal agenda, but not so quiet for fathers. This is relatively less spoken about. So how important is the mental health of a father for a child's growth and development? It is extremely critical, for many reasons as it turns out.

Dads mental health influences children

 The mental health of fathers and healthy co-parenting relationships have a powerful effect on the development of children. Evidence suggests fathers who are caring and respectful of children regardless of socioeconomic class, race, and ethnicity, achieve stronger social skills.

Studies further show that children are at a higher risk of facing behavioural and emotional problems if their father has mental health problems.

Fathers with poorer mental health are less likely to feel efficient as parents and feel less secure in their parenting. They became more sceptical and less patient with their children's behaviour. They are less likely to spend less time with them and engage in kindergarten school activities.

 

How to help Dads with mental health issues:

  • Regularly discusses the mental health of both new fathers and mothers in services for new parents.
  • Support new dads by introducing them to co-parenting and particularly those who co-parent through multiple forms of family living arrangements to help them get on the same parenting page.
  • Provide support by engaging new dads in two areas: parental support programs to provide them with confident parenting techniques and early childhood education.

 We have made a big leap in recognizing and fostering maternal mental health and family well-being in the past few years. Yet we live in the Dark Ages when it comes to helping new fathers. Help for the improvements and difficulties encountered by new dads is largely lacking from perinatal and postpartum health conversations. This means that initiation into fatherhood is confusing, painful, and exhausting for many men. Many figures suggest that in the first year, more than 25 percent of new fathers undergo depression, which is almost invariably undiagnosed and untreated.

The transition to fatherhood requires a set of psychological challenges that are overly complicated. To settle his disputes over his parents, discuss emotional instability, learn to be dependent on others and let others rely on him, and find a group with other fathers, a man is needed. Without any sort of encouragement and comprehension, none of these assignments are necessary.

 Why is it a problem?

  • Men aged 45-49, are the group with the highest suicide rate in the UK.
  • In June 2015, the National Childbirth Trust (UK) found that 1 in 3 dads (38 percent) were concerned about their own health and about 3 in 4 dads (73 percent) were concerned about their partner's mental health.
  • 33% of young dads wanted mental health assistance and they could not reach out to anyone. (NCT)

Depression and suicide are ranked as leading causes of death, but men are also much less likely than women to pursue mental health care.

Why do more Dads deal with mental health?

Men and boys at an incredibly young age are constrained by stronger social sanctions than women when it comes to voicing feelings. Fathers are often taught to grow up to control, restrain and suppress their feelings with traditional phrases such as "men don't cry," "man up," or "act like a man." They are often viewed as fragile or incapable of keeping control if they cannot control their feelings. Yet our existing social values that teach men to control their feelings may have significant downstream repercussions for the mental health and survival of men. Also, men who are racial/ethnic or sexual minorities may experience specific stress that can impair their mental health because of persistent discrimination.

The shame surrounding the mental health of Dads

For dads, the shame surrounding mental health is largely down to social conditioning. Some dads believe like there is a stigma attached to disclosing mental health problems, and there can be a broad variety of explanations why men feel they cannot speak about their thoughts or see a psychiatrist for treatment.

With false perceptions that they must be solid and in charge, men are always bought up. And they always do, when things go wrong in life, depressive emotions will spin out of control and they have no means of dealing with these new emotions.

Many men report that they do not want to spend time with the psychiatrist, they fail to accept that they need treatment, they are humiliated or ashamed of their feelings. Others believe like "all under control" they have it because they do not want to accept that they need help.

 Over the years, I have had quite a few discussions in my life with dads about their thoughts about their perceptions of society. Almost all of them told me that they refuse to address their mental health because they do not want to seem too vulnerable, and they feel that even though everyone around them is falling apart, it is important to stay solid. It saddens me that men still believe that they are not supposed to express empathy or ask for support because it is not considered a male tactic to this day.

The academic research suggests that for psychiatric disorders, men are slightly less likely than women to use mental health facilities. The Main cause is external stigma attached to it. Indeed, some evidence suggests that health care providers may have stigmatizing views towards patients with mental illness themselves.

For example, one study showed that in their experiences with the mental health care system, 44 percent of service recipients experienced biased behaviour. Participants recorded multiple unpleasant experiences with doctors in a survey of low-income men living in rural New England, with one reporting that "Whenever I would go in there [a local hospital], they treated me like a drunk, and I don't drink!"

Pressure Within the Family

Changes in the mental health of mothers during the perinatal phase have been well studied, but the mental health of fathers has not gained as much attention, even though in many ways in which the mental health problems of fathers will affect the entire family.

Evidence suggests that for persons with mental illness, the extended family may be a significant source of help and solace. That said, research indicates that certain members of the family (Men especially fathers) can view mental illness as a cause of guilt that is detrimental to the image of the family. This will add to efforts to ignore or hide mental illness, again deterring the quest for help.

Stigma regarding dad’s mental health in the media

It is well-known that broader societal views and values can be influenced by media portrayals of socio-economic communities. reporting on women with mental illness appear to be more supportive and empathic, while articles on men with mental illness included more stigmatizing content and relate the mental illness of men/dads to crime and abuse.

This is a significant discovery, as these cultural portrayals can add to a broader atmosphere of paranoia about mentally ill dads and can prevent them seeking help.  For instance, if they report mental health problems, dads could reasonably risk being stereotyped by their families, associates, and employers.

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