bipolar parent

Father’s Day: Mental Health Resources for Men

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The mental health of fathers, especially new fathers, matters.

When fathers are mentally healthy and in tune with their emotions, they’re usually more present with their children. And as a direct result, the kids thrive.

One in ten men–10% of men in America–suffers postpartum depression, and that rate raises to a whopping 50% if mom is depressed.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of resources for mothers suffering postpartum depression and major depressive disorders, but few for fathers directly.

In honor of Father’s Day, here are some mental health resources for fathers. Most resources are for both parents, and I will be including some of those here as well, with the focus being on men.

What if I’m in a Crisis?

If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, try one of the numbers below.

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Espanol): 1-888-628-9454.
  • To reach a crisis counselor, text HOME to 741-741.
  • If you or your loved one struggles with substance abuse, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-622-HELP (4357) and they’ll hook you up with referrals to treatment centers.

Also of note are my domestic (US) and international crisis hotline master posts, found here and here respectively.

If you or your loved ones are dealing with a mental health crisis, there is help out there. All you have to do is to have the courage to ask for help.

Resources for Fathers

  • There are a few treatment locators available for the United States, specifically this one by Psychology Today and this one by SAMHSA. You can look for men’s health issues directly.
  • ManTherapy is a website with a “rich mahogany” vibe, one that encourages men to seek help with memes and entertaining articles based on Anchorman.
  • Heads Up Guys offers practical tips and support for men suffering depression by other men who have been there.
  • Postpartum.net has a fabulous list of resources specifically for dads suffering from postpartum depression, including support groups and chats with an expert in mental health. They also have a helpline that you can call or text at 1-800-944-4773 (4PPD) in English and Spanish. From their website: “When you call the HelpLine you will be asked to leave a confidential message, and a trained and caring volunteer will listen and return your call or text during business hours. They will listen, answer questions, offer encouragement, and connect you with local resources as needed.”
  • In a similar vein, GoodRx.com has a huge list of mental health resources for men, including online support groups, mental health therapy for men, and specific resources for Black men.

Resources Specific to Canada

  • Here to Help provides a self-assessment tool that can be used by anyone.
  • Triple P offers free online programs for parenting advice across a range of ages.
  • Anxiety Canada offers a free online anxiety management program that I believe anyone can use.
  • Bounce Back Ontario provides a free telephone-guided cognitive behavioral therapy session for depression and anxiety.

Final Thoughts

Men who suffer from depression and mental health challenges often suffer alone, keeping their detrimental feelings to themselves.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is help out there for men, especially fathers.

If you are a man who is suffering from depression, check out one of these websites. And if you are a woman who loves a man who suffers, then point him to this post.

You can conquer depression and other mental health challenges. It takes time, talking to someone, self-care, and possibly medication, but you can claw your way out of the pit.

Get help today.

I wish you well in your journey.

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Father’s Day: Why the Mental Health of New Fathers Matters

Most everyone has heard of postpartum depression, the devastating mental health condition that affects many mothers after giving birth. But did you know that some researchers estimate that up to 25% of new fathers suffer depression in the first year after their child’s birth? And the number jumps to 50% if mom is also depressed.

We hear quite a bit about women’s transition to new motherhood, but very little about men’s transition to fatherhood. While supporting maternal mental health is a worthy goal and should continue, we need to support paternal mental health as well.

Immediately following Father’s Day on June 21st, 2020, is International Father’s Mental Health Day. Founded by Postpartum Support International’s Dr. Daniel Singley as well as paternal postpartum depression survivor Mark Williams, the awareness day aims to create social media buzz about the mental health of dads.

Father's Day: Why the Mental Health of New Fathers Matters - Cassandrastout.com

New Fatherhood Has Its Own Changes and Challenges

Having a new baby doesn’t just change the biology of women. Men undergo massive hormonal and biological changes as well. Testosterone goes down, prolactin goes up, and entire areas of a man’s brain grow. This equips the father to care for his newborn.

And aside from biological and hormonal changes, fatherhood brings its own unique stresses.

First, the partnership between the parents have changed. Sex is off the table, at least for a while, and sleep deprivation makes handling conflicts over parenting, finances, and other issues more difficult to handle–right when the conflicts ramp up.

The lack of emotional and physical intimacy, especially for men who depend entirely on their partner for emotional closeness, is a bitter pill to swallow for many new fathers.

Speaking of finances, a mother who has just given birth needs at least six weeks to recover, maybe more if she’s had a C-section. She will be out of work for at least that time. Since parental leave in the US is so abysmal, and new parents have very little support on a state and federal level, the stress for keeping the family afloat while the mother is recovering falls to the other parent.

The father may also feel that his bond with the new baby is not as strong as the mother’s bond, so he may feel left out of building a relationship with his newborn.

In addition, there are psychological stresses to parenting. The new dad must resolve conflicts about his own childhood and his own father, looking for a model for his own parenthood. If the new dad has a bad relationship with his own father, he may have to seek role models elsewhere–something few people do before impending fatherhood.

All of these stresses and conflicts impact a new dad’s mental health. As I said in the first paragraph, up to 25% of new fathers suffer depression in the first year of their baby’s life.

How to Support Our Fathers

The mental health of our fathers matters, and not just for the father himself.

If the father of the household is emotionally healthy, he can better respond to a newborn’s cries and model emotional resilience to his children. When a father is emotionally supported, he can be a better partner, and maternal mental health improves.

But a dad, especially a new dad, should not be supported just because his mental health impacts others. The father is a human being with his own unique struggles who needs help from not only the people around him, but state and federal governments.

If you have a new dad in your life, offer him and his parenting partner a meal. Check in with the parents on a regular basis, especially after the first two months, when most support around them has usually dried up. Offer an ear to the new father (and mother) if your relationship is close–and even if it isn’t.

Join organizations such as Postpartum Support International, and see what you can do to advocate for new parents, especially fathers, who are often left out of mental health conversations. Include new dads in these conversations as much as possible.

As for the governmental level, write your senator or representative to insist on paternal leave policies in your state. There are many benefits to paternity leave:

  • Fathers who stay home with their newborns develop a greater bond with their babies, which lasts long into the child’s life.
  • Children whose dads stayed home with them have better mental health and cognitive test scores than those children whose fathers stayed away.
  • And the mental and physical health of mothers whose parenting partners stayed with them–and set up an equal parenting relationship–was greatly improved.

Paid parental leave policies are crucial for the mental health of both parents and their children.

Washington state has just passed a state-wide policy requiring three months of paid leave for fathers who work at large companies, occurring any time within the first year of infancy.

My brother-in-law, a new dad himself, is taking two months off of work in June and July to spend time with his wife and baby. (He took one off earlier, when the policy was less robust.)

My sister told me that having her husband work at home during the coronavirus outbreak was wonderful for their little family. He helped her cook and clean, bonded with their baby, and supported her mental health by opening up communication on tough issues they’d been facing in their relationship.

Paid paternity leave is a wonderful way to support our new fathers.

Final Thoughts

Our dads, especially new dads, need our help. Society has neglected them and told them that in order to remain strong, they must stuff their anxiety and depression. This does a disservice to the men in our lives.

The benefits to emotionally supporting a father are numerous. Fathers need support not only on a personal level, but also governmental. We need to advocate for them and include them in mental health conversations.

With a concentrated effort, we may be able to lower the incidence rate of depression among new fathers.

I wish you well in your journey.

Related:

Father's Day: Why the Mental Health of New Fathers Matters - Cassandrastout.com

bipolar parent

Interview With My Parents: On Raising a Bipolar Child

One of our greatest resources for memories about our childhoods is of course our parents. I asked mine for their perspectives on what my growing up bipolar was like for them. I did not have a diagnosis until I was twenty-one, but showed evidence of bipolar disorder since I was a teenager–in hindsight. Here are their responses:

What was it like raising a bipolar child?

Mom: Confusing! That about sums it up. You have an inkling that something is wrong, but where do you start looking? No professionals–teachers, doctors, social workers–no one said anything. If someone had told me, “you need to look into bipolar disorder,” I would have jumped on that. If someone had told me to read an article, I would have.

Dad: See how it’s a fluid field of study, now. There’s so much more out there than there used to be.

Mom: The first thing I read was that children turned out this way because the mother was cold. And I knew that couldn’t be right.

Dad: But being that you were our first child, you had a lot of attention given to you. Some children demand more.

Mom: Hindsight is 20-20. There’s a lot more out there, now. “Cassandra, bipolar” would have never gone together my mind. Then there’s the guilt, after you find out a diagnosis. You think you could have done something, that you should have known.

Dad: Your mother was concerned by why you weren’t tactile. We didn’t understand the hypersensitivity. But on the positive side, you would wow people with your intellectual abilities.

Mom: Going to school for you was exhausting–completely, physically, emotionally exhausting. You were putting on an act to be normal, and you’d come home and cry yourself to sleep every night.

Dad: There was a pressure to socialize.

Mom: My family and my church family would say, “There’s nothing wrong with her!” But they were completely blind to it.

Dad: Or in denial.

Mom: Yeah, that, too. But mostly blind. There’s a stigma of labeling. One thing I was not prepared for was when you were angry in high school. You were just frustrated and angry with yourself and your world, and I had no time or energy to deal with it. But your frustration was just overwhelming to you and to me. Life had completely gotten out of hand at that point. But during the end of high school and the first years of college, you had these major meltdowns of depression. You were just listless. And you weren’t feeding yourself or taking a shower–you couldn’t!

What does it feel like being the parent of a bipolar adult?

Mom: Extreme relief that you have excellent medical care. And not only that, but that you have a husband who studies and understands each symptom as they crop up. He has no qualms about raising a child with you–about raising two children with you!

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Credit to flickr.com user yat fai ooi. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

Dad: [Your husband] doesn’t say much, so you can’t assume–

Mom: But I see the results. What does it feel like being the parent of a bipolar adult? I worry about you. That’s normal for any child. With all of my children who have a handicap, so to speak, I’ve lowered my expectations. So when they do achieve things, I’m surprised, even more than I am proud.

Dad: She learned that from me.

If I had had a diagnosis, would you have done anything differently?

Mom: Had I known, I would have treated you differently. And maybe that’s a bad thing. I treated you like a normal person because I didn’t know any better.

Thank you, Mom and Dad! I hope these insights will inspire other adults who suffer from mental health issues to talk to the people who raised them, if they have that kind of relationship with their caretakers.