"For some individuals, becoming a father can have a detrimental impact on their mental health or exacerbate existing conditions. Many men report feelings of post-natal depression after their baby is born or they consider themselves useless if they feel they are not providing for their children, or have limited access to them"
In 2016, 5,688 suicides were recorded in the UK and of these 75% were men. You may well have heard this statistic or something similar; I am feeling reassured that the issue of men’s mental health does appear to be getting publicity and increased awareness. However simply recognising this as a problem is meaningless if it does not lead to action. In order to reduce the number of suicides and improve mental health among men, it is necessary to get as many people as possible involved in promoting change- and WILD as an organisation can help do this! The most important issue that WILD will be tackling, is how to improve the mental health of young men in a fathering role.
My personal view is that talking is the key, or maybe the most important tool we can all use to address this problem. If you can express your thoughts and emotions or just tell people how you are feeling, it can really help; being understood and sharing experiences, can ease negative feelings such as guilt or loneliness or self-loathing. However, for a number of reasons, many people are unable to do this and the consequences of ‘bottling up’, can lead to a number of harmful results, such as: anger, substance misuse, violence, self-harm…..and suicide.
Despite being told that ‘men don’t talk’ and ‘men don’t do groups’, my experience is that if you create the right environments, where individuals feel they have trust and respect, you often cannot stop them when they get started! Men should not be blamed or criticised for being macho or ignorant, if they find it hard to express their emotions, I have found that there are usually a host of complex reasons why people may be reluctant to talk openly. WILD young fathers are planning to facilitate sessions where individuals can discuss their problems or worries. We aim to use ‘informal’ venues such as the woods or the gym and use activities such as music and sport to create situations where people can feel safe and relaxed.
If you ask someone: ‘are you alright?’, the chances are they will say ‘yes’, or in Cornwall it is likely that they will say: ‘yeah-you?’. I liked a recent campaign promoted by Cornwall Council, that urged people to ask: ‘how are you really feeling?’, as I feel that just taking a bit more time talking to someone, or showing someone that you will listen, could make a real difference. WILD young fathers project are keen to encourage individuals to accept help and to help others, we will be promoting the importance of participating in social activities and becoming a part of the local community.
Research completed by the Samaritans suggests that: ‘Membership of a low socio-economic group in itself increases the risk of suicide’. Aware that many of the young men who will be working with the project will be on low incomes or unemployed, WILD young fathers appreciate how financial worries, unemployment and deprivation can lead to poor mental health. We also aim to give practical support to individuals so they can manage money issues and pursue careers. We are also mindful that fathers need to establish a positive work/life balance and re-enforce the idea that whilst earning money helps them pay the bills it is really important for them to spend quality time with their families.
"On a bigger scale, the project also needs to address issues at a higher level and recognise that whilst individuals can benefit from support, society also needs to change."
On a bigger scale, the project also needs to address issues at a higher level and recognise that whilst individuals can benefit from support, society also needs to change. The term ‘toxic masculinity’, seems appropriate as macho stereotypes and ideas about the way men are ‘expected’ to behave can be really harmful. Men can receive confusing mixed messages about how important it is to be emotional or sensitive but often when individuals display their feelings they can still be ridiculed or seen to be weak, or told to ‘man up’. We can all do our bit by encouraging and supporting people around us, particularly if they appear to be struggling. It is also necessary to challenge harmful comments and behaviours, change negative attitudes and create environments where people feel safe to express themselves.
For some individuals, becoming a father can have a detrimental impact on their mental health or exacerbate existing conditions. Many men report feelings of post-natal depression after their baby is born or they consider themselves useless if they feel they are not providing for their children, or have limited access to them. I have also heard young men tell me heart-warming stories about how having children has helped them ‘turned their life around’ and how becoming a father has given them hope and something to live for. Life is a bumpy road and for many young fathers it can be full of potholes. WILD Young F
athers are going to do our best to support men moving forward.