It’s stressful being a parent. But when does that stress turn into a real mental health problem? As it is World Mental Health Day, we have put together some signs to help understand when a dad’s mental health is suffering.
86% of parents say the effect of lockdowns, pressures of homeschooling, fears of becoming ill and pandemic work and financial difficulties left them feeling overwhelmed, unable to cope, and lacking balance in their life. And yet, so often we fail to talk about our emotions or seek help because we don’t want to make a fuss.
Sometimes we feel parental guilt for ‘not holding everything together’, as we see it. But if a parent has mental ill health, it impacts the children, and they’ll pick it up. They need parents as role models to show them how they’re putting it right. Apart from a problem shared is a problem halved, there are so many mental health treatments these days, there is real help out there to help with a dad’s mental health.
Research found four in 10 parents admit they’re in mental health distress, with some saying they’re suffering from stress, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, burnout and more. It is important to understand the signs and get help.
Signs a dad’s mental health is suffering
1. Sleep problems
Sleep issues can be a warning sign. Like getting up in the early hours of the morning for no reason. If it’s been going on for a couple of weeks and stopping you from feeling positive, then it might be worth thinking about whether something’s emerging that might impact your mental health.
2. Burnout symptoms
These can occur as a result of juggling several roles. If you are trying to parent, hold down a demanding job, be an attentive son to a parent of yours, it can build up on top of you. Symptoms include feeling exhausted, irritable and overwhelmed, or noticing reduced productivity and an inability to meet the demands of daily work and life.
3. Eating changes
There may be changes to eating patterns that suggest all is not right with a dad’s mental health. Binge eating or suddenly restricting food are markers that your relationship with food is not as healthy as it could be. There may be a reason for that which you should seek help with.
Beat Eating Disorders is a charity that helps supporting people with eating disorders.
4. Mood changes
Parents may experience low moods, apathy or negative feelings about the future. While this can be something everyone experiences at some point, if it’s lasting and negatively affects your life, it may be time to seek help. When things are out of balance, our perspective often changes, too. If your outlook has become overly negative or ‘worst-case scenario’ focused, dial down worst-case thinking to thoughts that have less negative consequences.
5. Excessive anger
It’s normal to get angry or frustrated when you’re a parent, but you may need help if you constantly find it difficult to manage your emotions, and you’re aware your anger is excessive. This is one of the signs that a dad’s mental health is starting to slide, especially if it is directed towards your kids.
6. Increased drinking or drug use
If you’re using alcohol or drugs as a crutch to help you deal with the stress of parenting, clearly that’s not helpful to you or your children. You need to address risky behaviours like this as they simply do not work long term as a crutch. There are many people that you can talk to if this is an issue for you.
Charity Turning Point supports those with needs relating to drink and drugs.
7. Suicidal feelings and self-harm
Seek help for feelings like this immediately. Talk to someone you feel close to about how you feel. Admitting to feeling out of balance is often a relief, and can help challenge feelings of failure. If nothing you try works, then have a conversation with your GP or occupational health adviser at work.
For information on dads’ mental health support, contact the Mind infoline on 0300 123 3393.