Tips for Father’s Mental Health & Wellbeing from Mental Health Expert Noel McDermott

The stresses of parenthood can present challenges to the mental health of fathers, which can in turn impact their children’s well-being, too. Here, mental health expert Noel McDermott offers his advice to dads looking to stay on top of their mental health and improve their wellbeing.

Becoming a dad is frightening and challenging but also the most rewarding experience and nothing actually prepares you for it, whether you had a good model of fatherhood growing up or you didn’t. Being a dad is largely a socially constructed role rather than a biologically determined one and as such we are free to construct it as needed, but it is undoubtedly true that the prevailing model from the 1950’s of the breadwinner who has little involvement is pretty much dissolved and thank the stars for that! Home working has opened up parenting and family life like never before and many dads are welcoming that. 

Mental health expert Noel McDermott comments:

“Humans are amongst a very small number (about 5%) of mammals that have invested dads in childrearing activities and the only one from primates. This is because we have large brains, and our children are born too soon biologically and remain highly dependent for a very long time. From a species level the role of fatherhood has been pivotal in its survival, so no pressure there!”

Financial pressures for fathers

Nevertheless, although most British homes are dual income these days, structural inequalities mean that often the family does rely on the income of the dad (and in this case male dads). So, earning and providing remain important areas of stress for dads. Being the primary earner can be an enormous pressure and coupled with not wanting to worry their partner and increased isolation from social networks as the family dominates can lead to dads feeling overwhelmed. Life can become pretty narrowly defined for dad either at work or home with little outlet for social contact beyond that. Also, traditionally men as fathers don’t have the emotional support networks that mums will have.

Fitting into fatherhood

Men notice for example that a family and toddler group is usually actually a mum and toddler group and if they turn up, they are viewed with either suspicion or condescension. Often a male dad will become distressed when his partner expresses her frustrations at parenting etc and feel he can’t help as one very important aspect of his life, work, tells him to come up with solutions to problems and here he can’t do that. Previous interests and activities can fall by the wayside as trips to the pub, football matches etc drop off, producing possible isolation and also crucially lack of regular exercise which is potentially disastrous for health and wellbeing. 

Culturally male dads are told they are meant to be strong and cope with stresses, called derogatory names on media by pundits such as snowflakes or labelled woke and unmanly if they carry their children in public in body slings. What these pundits don’t tell us is that men make up 75% of deaths by suicide, make up 95% of the prison population of which 80% have 2 or more diagnosable mental health illnesses, make up almost 100% of street homeless, face the largest burden of violence as victims as well as perpetrators and are overrepresented in substance and alcohol misuses figures. 

Human dads have been designed by mother nature to be part of the home because the species needs us to be there and the current anti-family dad images that came from the industrial revolution and the need to raise mass armies in two world wars has been of significant detriment to men’s health and wellbeing. Childless men face similar negative life outcomes in terms of health and wellbeing as childless women. So, what can dad’s do?

Healthy Tips for Dads

  • Know which side your bread is buttered on… get involved with your kids and family no matter what. You will get health and wellbeing from that like nothing else!
  • Join support groups for dads such as Dad La Soul and if one doesn’t exist set it up. They will help you!
  • Get of the sauce – there is no safe level of drinking period, so stop it.
  • Get active, of the four pillars of lifestyle medicine regular active exercise is by far the most important … it can be yoga, dance, walking, running, swimming … it can be with the kids and the family and/or it can be with other guys or groups.
  • Talk, you are not burdening your partner when you tell them you are worried about money, you are helping them understand why you are grumpy!! That way they don’t have to worry they are the source of the problem.
  • Educate yourself psychologically, know the signs of distress, appetite issues, sleep issues, drinking, arguing and anger, isolation, concentration issues, being hopeless felling like a burden and if you have any of them get help!

Mental Health Warning Signs

  • sleep disturbances
  • changes in mood
  • changes in appetite
  • changes in weight
  • typically for men you will see an increase in the use of alcohol and issues around dysregulation (losing one’s temper more).
  • withdrawal is another sign of potential struggles.

Being a dad is what you are designed to be so enjoy it. Be selfish about your needs for your kids and your family. Self-care is crucial and fathers worldwide need to be aware of the potential for mental health problems and be willing to ask for help when needed.

Mental health expert Noel McDermott is a psychotherapist and dramatherapist with over 30 years’ work within the health, social care, education, and criminal justice fields. His company Mental Health Works provides unique mental health services for the public and other organisations. Mental Health Works offers in situ health care and will source, identify and co-ordinate personalised teams to meet your needs – https://www.mentalhealthworks.net/