If you have thought of talking about mental health to your father, you may have been reluctant to do so. In the past, mental health has been viewed as a weakness. You were probably told to “be a man” and “deal with it.” You may have even been laughed at, and told to “stop your crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” Men, in general, aren’t big about discussing their feelings, even when their feelings may be causing discomfort.
Talking about Mental Health with your Father
According to the BBC, this is a growing concern. They have many examples to illustrate the issue. One is that of Keenan Atkins.
Keenan, now 18, faced severe depression in early secondary school. He wanted help, but was scared to talk to his father about the issue. “My dad and I are both quite naturally introverted people, so we find it difficult to form close relationships,” he stated. “This has made it difficult to open up to each other about what we are going through.” Speaking about his father, he then added, “His generation didn’t get the chance to speak about their feelings and they are afraid that in doing so they might be seen as weak.”
Keenan believed that his father also suffered from depression. In spite of this knowledge, the teenager still said that he had “a fear that he will try to find other explanations as to why I am feeling sad, rather than depression. Only because he has been through it, [he] wouldn’t want me to experience the same.”
Apparently, Keenan is not alone. The BBC reported that 49% of teenage boys told a survey, which was part of the Time to Change campaign, they weren’t comfortable discussing mental health with their dads, or would be uncomfortable if it were an issue. One third also felt as if their fathers “did not talk about feelings.”
Talking about Mental Health – Why is it important?
Why was the study important? Well, it was trying to see how fathers’ can influence their son’s attitudes about mental health. When children (or anyone for that matter), feel trapped and they feel like no one understands, it can severely worsen the situation. From what the survey could tell, there indeed seems to be some link between fathers and sons. This could be due to the fact that father’s don’t want to think anything is wrong with their offspring (this is true of mother’s as well). They may see it as a reflection upon them. If they admit that something is wrong with their son, than perhaps it subconsciously means something is also wrong with them.
One area where there was noticeable difference was if father’s had already shown a willingness to discuss mental health issues. In these cases, 70% of the teenagers surveyed felt they could talk to their fathers’ openly.
Talking about mental health is important because, as the interim director at Time for a Change campaign, Jo Loughran, told BBC: “We want to encourage all dads to talk more openly so that if and when their sons do develop mental health problems, they can be more supportive of them. If we can break the negative cycle of men feeling unable to speak out, we can create a new generation of men who no longer feel isolated, ashamed and unable to reach out for the help that they, and everyone around them, needs to successfully manage their mental health.”
Many people ask for tips for talking about mental health. Perhaps the biggest is as follows: don’t be afraid to talk about it.