Warning Signs That Your Dad May Have a Mental Health Concern
Father’s Day is right around the corner. It’s a day to celebrate the father figures in your life and to show them that you care and that you see all the things they have done for you. However, it is also a great time to bring awareness to the fact that men and specifically dads struggle with their mental health too, and that it is okay for them to reach out for help.
Fathers are the backbone of the family. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are tough and their children used to tell others “My dad is stronger than yours!” Some dads are kind, the sort of person who lifts you up when you are feeling down. Other dads love to argue, they may be the first person to tell you that you are wrong, while also being your biggest fan.
Even the strongest dads can struggle with their mental health. This is not uncommon or a sign of weakness. Life is difficult and there are times that everyone needs extra support. Dads are not exempt from this. Unfortunately, many dads don’t feel comfortable seeking support for their Mental Health because so often it is seen as weakness.
Below are a few quick facts about a father’s mental health, why it’s important for a dad to make their mental health a priority, the signs to watch for, and what to do if you notice that a dad in your life is struggling.
Many dads struggle with depression and anxiety or some other mental health concern. The instances of these struggles are shown to increase after a new child is born. Some new dads even experience Paternal Postpartum Depression. This is due to the changes and pressures that are put on a father when a new baby comes into the picture. The incidences of Paternal Postpartum Depression have been shown to be more prevalent when their partner is also experiencing mental health concerns.
How Paternal Mental Health Affects Children
The symptoms that come along with these mental health concerns can have an impact on how dads interact with their kids. Think about it. When you are sad or anxious all you have the capacity for is getting yourself through the day. You don’t have the energy to pour into your family when they need it. So remember, a dad who prioritizes his mental health is happier, more present in the lives of his kids, and is more supportive as a partner.
Studies have even shown that the children of dads who experience mental health issues are at a higher risk for emotional and behavioral difficulties as they grow and mature. The effects of a struggling father on a developing child are similar to the effect of a struggling mother.
Warning Signs of a Mental Health Concern
We know there is a stigma around the topic of mental health and more specifically the mental health of men. For that reason, it is very important to watch for warning signs that something isn’t right. So that we can encourage someone to seek help for their mental health who might not traditionally seek help on their own. A few of these signs to watch for are:
Engaging in dangerous activities like driving too fast.
Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness. For example, a dad is normally calm when the kids make too much noise but now gets angry at his kids for this.
Becoming withdrawn or isolated from family and friends. This could look like a dad who always goes outside to play catch with his son on Saturdays "isn't in the mood" or is "too tired" to do it for multiple weeks in a row.
Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much. An example would be, dad stays in bed all day instead of going to the movies with his family.
Headaches, digestive problems, physical aches or pains. This could look like dad always complaining that he doesn’t feel good or is going to the doctor more than normal.
How To Help If Your Father Is Struggling With His Mental Health
So what should you do if you see these signs or believe that the father in your life is struggling? Well, you can do a few things. You can encourage them to:
Continue habits like a good diet and exercise that will keep them physically healthy as well as provide benefits for their mental and emotional wellbeing.
Stay social. Keeping in touch with family and friends keeps people engaged and has been shown to fend off the feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Keep up the activities that bring them joy. Having a hobby and sticking to it has been known to reduce feelings of depression and stress.
A struggling father can have a big impact on the entire family. For Father’s Day this year, encourage your dad to care for his mental health!