Dad’s mental health is important, too
Parenthood can be a rollercoaster when it comes to emotional and mental health – not only for moms, but for dads as well. Geoff Williams explained why mental health is important among fathers, how you can nurture it and when you should seek help if you’re struggling.
“The role of dad is key for the family’s identity as they go through different life stages. Therefore, good mental health is crucial for a father and should not be neglected for the sake of work, expense or other reasons,” said Williams.
Behaviors such as affection, vulnerability and engagement create a strong attachment between fathers and children – and also support mental health among all family members. “It’s important that a father not be stuck in a stereotyped or outdated idea of how to be a good parent. Your experience of being a father will be different from the one you experienced, because we gain knowledge and insight each day as more information becomes available about how to parent,” said Williams.
What can you do to manage your mental health as a father?
Williams said good mental health is best taken care of with good fundamentals, including:
- Quality sleep
- Healthy diet
- Recreation in various forms
- Healthy relationships with others
- Interests beyond day-to-day responsibilities
“Being a healthy father is also one of the best ways to continue your goal as an effective father to those you love. Equally important is to frequently check in with yourself and acknowledge how you’re really doing. Feeling a balance of roles across life areas, such as work, home and family responsibilities, is crucial to maintaining good mental health,” said Williams.
Are there stages of parenting that might bring more mental health struggles?
Being a new father after the birth of a child can be a significant stress inducer and is often overlooked while much of the support goes to the mother. Fathers, just like mothers, experience a significant amount of stress as they adjust to all the wonderful and challenging changes that having a new baby can bring.
Similarly, the milestone years can create stress as well – the first day of school, first bout of serious illness, school and life transition points such as driving, graduating and marriage. Emotions can be difficult to process and recognize when moments like these are expected to come with all positive emotions, yet you find yourself with some negative ones.
Fathers also struggle with their own life changes and losses. Those moments need attention and care. Modeling self-care and accessing resources for yourself are great ways you can take care of yourself so you can provide for your family.
What are the signs and symptoms of mental health struggles?
Just like our physical health, we must pay attention to our emotional health. “If you see a suspicious skin mole or have an unfamiliar body ache, you talk to a healthcare professional. The same is true of mental health. Fathers who become familiar with the signs and symptoms of anxiety, depression or increased substance use will be able to detect and address any mental health challenges that may come their way,” said Williams.
Some of the signs and symptoms to watch out for include:
- Changes in sleep for prolonged periods of time
- Changes in personality
- Increased frustration
- Mood swings
- Lack of joy where there use to be
How and when should you seek help?
There are many ways to get support or treatment for mental health issues. Seek professional help if your thoughts seem to be consistently negative and you feel less hopeful than you normally would. “You can find help by talking to your primary care provider or any other health professional who can refer you to a specialist if needed. If you feel you might hurt yourself and are formulating a plan to do so, call 911 or get to an emergency room as soon as possible, ideally with a trusted love one or friend who can support you through the process,” said Williams.
What can you do if a loved one is experiencing mental health struggles?
Knowledge truly is power and informs your thoughts and actions. “Become informed about mental health conditions, speak gently and supportively to your loved one, be consistent in your expectations, and ask them what they feel is helpful. Don’t be discouraged if they become defensive and fear judgement as that can be a very normal initial response. Continue to lovingly address the issue you’re seeing and help them seek further help,” said Williams.
Good mental health is crucial for everyone, including fathers. Mental health is part of your physical health and it should not be neglected. “Your mental health must be cared for, and sometimes treated, in order to have a healthy life and successful, enjoyable role as a father,” said Williams.
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