Being a dad is one of the most rewarding and important roles you can have in life. Right from the beginning, fathers play a big role in their children’s health and development. Studies show that father involvement during the perinatal period and the first three years of life leads to children who are more ready for school, have an advanced vocabulary and enhanced social skills, and are better able to regulate their emotions.
Father involvement also positively impacts fathers and mothers: it increases both parents’ confidence, results in both being more responsive to the baby, and it decreases mothers and fathers’ potential for mental health issues.
With today’s advances in medicine, it’s tragic how uninformed and unwilling parents are about maintaining a healthy body and particularly a healthy mind. Men are far less likely to seek help, particularly help with mental health. Exhibiting symptoms of a disorder often does not trigger a sense of urgency to seek medical attention.
There are many reasons you may be reluctant to seek help for mental illness.
I’m not weak,
I don’t need it,
I can get better on my own,
I don’t want anyone to think I’m crazy,
I don’t want to spend the money,
I don’t have time,
I can’t leave my family
Acknowledging the reality of your illness and its impact on your life can be frightening, and can elicit emotions you’d rather not deal with. Even if you do realize the extent of your own suffering, the prospect of unraveling it can seem overwhelming and exhausting, and you may tell yourself that you can handle it alone. When you have children, however, your mental illness is never yours alone. The effects of mental illness on children can be deep-reaching and destructive.
Getting Help for Mental Health
If you believe your experiencing mental health concerns or disorders, you can get many different types of help and support.
The best place to start is with your Primary Care Physician. Your PCP can refer you to a range of specialist support services like psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, rehabilitation services or community health services.
Parents are not only investing in their sound mental health, they are investing in themselves to build a strong foundation to successfully juggle being a father, maintain employment as well as financial and household responsibilities. It can easily become overwhelming. This foundation is built on "Core Capability Life Skills”
According to the extensive research and studies by Harvard University, Center on the Developing Child, science tells us adults need certain capabilities to succeed in life and support the development of the next generation, our children.
Mental health challenges will undermine your ability to accomplish this. Psychologically, men face some of the toughest developmental challenges when they become a father. They may also face challenges and changes in the relationship with their partner.
As soon as a new baby enters the world, the need to listen, think critically, and make difficult parenting decisions take center stage. At the same time, intimate relations with your partner are not a priority. Health experts believe many men who relied on their partners for emotional support and intimacy can be left feeling guilty, resentful, and confused as they try to figure out how to support their partners while sacrificing their own support and need for intimacy.
Society views men as stoic, self-sacrificing, and most importantly, strong. When men feel none of those things as new fathers, they don’t want to admit it or seek help. Experts in paternal mental health say fathers are struggling and suffering with metal health difficulties at about the same rate as mothers. The majority of these mental health difficulties go unnoticed, undiagnosed, and untreated.
The Consequences You Won’t See Coming
If you continue to be a skeptic and take your chances lets look at this from a different perspective. The perspective from the child who has a father with evident mental health issues. He is certainly not the type of man who would consider seeking a mental health diagnosis or treatment if necessary. It would never happen under any circumstances.
What would the outcome be for this child and family? Statistics show this example commonly unfolds nationally every day.
The following is a true story of my experiences with my father who chose not to seek treatment. The outcome would have a destructive impact to my family and me. Among other mental health disorders, my father has a narcissistic personality disorder. He never sought help or believed he had any mental health illnesses.
The outcome? He completely rejected all his children and never participated in parenting most importantly responsive parenting. He was often angry or emotionless. We never would bond with my father, there was never any affection of any form, regular conversations, or any type of relationship what so ever. I looked at him as an acquaintance, a stranger.
His wide range of abuse towards me continued for decades. My siblings and I would experience years of struggles from his abusive and unstable behavior. My father’s mental health disorders and destructive behavior impacted our entire household.
He was very manipulative; demanded support but offered no support; very judgmental, critical, and unaccountable for his destructive behavior and abuse. His type of mental health disorders will harm any family unit, maybe for life.
His unstable and erratic behavior was deep reaching. It shattered the foundation of our family that would never rebuild. My siblings and I lost any close family relationships we had during childhood and our relationships would gradually become more distant. There would never be a sense of unity with my siblings, empathy or boundaries and I recall how we could be critical of one another. Today, we all have not spoken to each other in years.
When I look back at what my family and I lost it was life changing. I think of the environment I lived in with a mentally ill parent who has never taken any accountability for so much destruction. He continues to steer the cause of his destruction in another direction.
Sharing my experiences may help bring real life consequences if mental health is not treated.
Parents with Untreated Mental Illness
Children are born waiting for love, affection, attention, stability, and guidance, and untreated mental illness can interfere with your ability to provide those—despite your best efforts. “[Mental illness] does have an impact on our ability to parent,”
While the exact challenges you face depend on the nature and severity of your illness as well as your personal circumstances, a 2012 study published in the Medical Journal of Australia noted that all forms of mental health disorders may disrupt positive parenting behavior:
For the 20% of children who have a parent with a mental illness, the lack of secure, consistent parenting, parental distress, and exposure to marital difficulties can have numerous, significant consequences on emotional and behavioral health, including:
Assuming numerous caretaking responsibilities for you and any siblings
Impaired social functioning
Poor academic performance
Mood disturbances and poor emotional regulation
Feelings of anger, anxiety, and guilt
Social isolation as the result of shame and stigma
Increased risk of drug use and poor social relationships
Help us improve the lives of families and children
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