What do we think when we think of the word: Fatherhood? I personally think of a loving dad, with two children sitting on his lap, reading a book, and chuckling away with his children next to the fireplace. However, the reality of fatherhood is at times quite different.
Being a parent, is one of the biggest responsibilities one can behold. You want to be the best father you possibly can, and at times being a man can add to trying to maintain a good home support for your partner as well. It’s not simply being a father.
But what if we add the extra responsibility of being a father with mental health? I am not sure there can be anything harder. Mental health affects 1 in 4 people, and there are certain conditions that affect men more than women. Men are more likely to commit suicide then women, and in a more aggressive manner. Men are more likely to be prone to conduct disorder, antisocial disorder, autism, Asperger’s, and ADHD to name a few.
It can be a terrifying experience knowing that you are about to relapse whilst also trying to be a father. The stress, the anxiety, and insomnia can indeed be increased from the worry. You don’t always hold as much autonomy, as you have to be cautious about remembering to take your medications, to go for your appointments, and do what you must in order to prevent deterioration in your mental health, in order to maintain a stable environment for your children.
You might feel alone, and that there is no one to talk to. You might feel you have disappointed your family, and worry about the possible stigma that your children might endorse if their friends knew you had mental health.
It’s not as simple as just simply worrying about being a good father: you have to also ridiculously worry about others opinions too. The last thing you would want is for your children to suffer any form of ridicule or bullying because of your own health condition, regardless of how wrong and stigmatised as it is, it can sometimes be a concern.
Some men state they feel less of a ‘man’ with mental health, as though some sort of castration has occurred: “Men aren’t supposed to have mental health and especially not fathers”.
But you are not any less of a man. Everyone can suffer mental health. No one is immune from it, not even I as a doctor. Do not fear it, if you do, then you are more likely to reject any form of help. Embrace the services and support around you. You wouldn’t suffer alone if you fractured your leg, so don’t so the same with your mental health.
Be proud of who you are, and what you stand for. You are a father with mental health, and you are doing the best that you possibly can.