International Father’s Mental Health Day

Family Health Diary

I saw an email through the inbox this week, and thought – wow, I bet not many people know about that day – I didn’t.

As per the logo above, this month there’s an International Father’s Mental Health Day. As a woman, I’d venture to say that mums are quite good about talking to other mums about their state of mind, but dads, maybe not so much. I realise that’s a huge generalisation, but I think I’d not be the only one who’d offer that musing.

Becoming a dad is a huge mental shift to start with, having a relationship with your partner and then your baby moves from me, to we to three. Plus, there’s all the practical stuff that causes stress – lack of sleep, lack of income, lack of knowledge on what’s normal.

All that’s a bit of a mind spin and blokes are pretty good at burying all that stress. Us gals tend to fall apart in tears and admit things are hopeless if we get someone that reads it for what it is and gently asks the ‘are you ok’ question, while many men suck it up and march forward being the strong bloke – while quietly falling apart inside.

We hear of post-natal depression for new mums, but dads can fall into a tailspin too. A NZ study has the numbers at about 12% post-natal depression for woman and 4.3% for men. Antenatal depression is another thing not so well known – and similar numbers of women (about 11%) are also depressed in pregnancy. (By the way don’t ignore that one – if it’s not caught and sorted it’s a risk factor for post-natal depression).

Without numbers available for antenatal depression for men, it can however be assumed that having a partner with depression and a baby on the way with all the life changes that will entail, is no easy ride. And even if mum to be is firing on all cylinders, men can report feeling forgotten, overlooked, or unsure, albeit they acknowledge this is a new and exciting chapter.

It’s tricky this being a dad thing. You navigate through the new parenthood thing, and before you know it you must figure out what sort of dad you’ll be with the toddler that pushes your buttons with challenging behaviour. Are you like your dad? Do you hear yourself sounding like him? Do you want to be like him? Maybe yes – you have good memories of your dad. Maybe no – you want different sorts of memories for your own children. In which case dads (and mums) must stop and consciously think about how they want to parent differently, which will mean educating yourself on how to do that, and for some, will mean changing their behaviour. Dang that starts to get hard!

Then…there’s…TEENAGERS! They are a special category.  Teens are cool creatures – I enjoy the adult exchanges – BUT they are also not quite adults, so it’s a bit of a thing for a parent to move your parenting style with them as they grow. Our marriage has certainly seen a few arguments over how we parent our kids, and I’m sure we are not alone – in fact I know we aren’t.

So, here’s to dads – it’s a hard job, but your kids need you and so do your partners, so be the best one you can be. But don’t drown in it. Put your hand up and say you’re finding things tricky – help is there, you’re not the only bloke to feel like that, so find some others to talk to about it.

Have a look at our short video clip on dads on Raising Children under the pre-schoolers tab (just sign up for free if you don’t subscribe already to unlock the 100+ parenting clips). We’ve got a couple of great NZ dad websites on that page too…


Written by Jude Dobson

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