3 in 4 Dads Want More Mental Health Support, Verywell Mind Survey Finds

Posted: 14th June 2023

In honor of Men’s Health Month and Father’s Day, Verywell Mind and Parents partnered to survey 1,600 Dads in the US for our Dads and Mental Health Study to find out how dads in particular are feeling, what’s missing from their mental health toolkits, and what kind of support dads are looking for to ensure mental wellness for fathers everywhere. Plus some helpful resources and insights to help dad along the way.

A new Verywell Mind and Parents survey has found that 75% of dads are looking for more mental health support. Society has long stigmatized mental health conditions for men, with the expression of mental health issues often perceived as weakness. But for the generation of men raising kids, being aware of the importance of mental health is imperative.

Many dads feel that they aren’t getting the support they need; what’s more, they may not know how to ask for help. In the survey of 1,600 dads in the US, participants expressed the different areas of support missing from their lives. They also dove into their fears of judgment and a desire to speak with their kids about mental health.

“While there is still a lot of stigma around getting help for one’s mental health, this is especially true for men,” says Saba Harouni Lurie, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of Take Root Therapy. “Gender stereotypes dictate that men should be stoic and self-reliant, which are seen as signs of strength. This is at odds with getting help.”

Saba Harouni Lurie, LMFT

These messages pressure dads to suppress their emotions and struggle silently, leading to increased stress and mental health issues.

Just as society has conditioned men not to express their feelings, it has also led people to ignore the idea of men needing emotional support, to such an extreme that asking if they’re OK can undermine their strength. Only 27% of dads surveyed said their friends or family check on them often and more than half said they wished folks would do so more often.

n This Spotlight

Check out the rest of this survey spotlight for more on what dads are struggling with, how we can support them, and what they can do for themselves:

Dads Want More Support, But May Not Admit It

Concerns around facing judgment are a significant barrier to dads getting help or expressing their emotions, yet many of them do want more care and consideration.

Yet, 75% of the dads think more mental health support is necessary for fathers, and 84% think it’s important to talk with your children about mental health—though 37% struggle to do so.

Dads who were the primary caregiver, millennials or younger, were more likely to struggle with multiple aspects of support, including:

  • Feeling judged for talking about mental health
  • Being unsure how to express their feelings
  • Wanting loved ones to check in on them more
  • Wishing dads received more mental health support overall
  • Struggling to talk with their children about mental health

Expressing emotions can be tricky for many men:

  • 44% say they were only somewhat or not at all comfortable with sharing emotions.
  • 29% are somewhat comfortable even feeling emotional, while 14% are only a little or not at all comfortable with feeling emotional.
  • Only 24% said they often speak about the topic with friends, while 27% never do.

Dads were most likely to discuss their mental health with a doctor or their partner.

The Critical Role of Friendship

If you struggle to open up to those in your circle, find other dads or people you trust to ensure a safe space for sharing how you feel, recommends Rebecca Minor, LICSW, a gender specialist and part-time faculty at Boston University specializing in the intersection of gender and sexuality. “Engaging in conversations with like-minded individuals can help alleviate fears of judgment,” she adds.

This may be tougher than it sounds, though, especially given what tends to happen for dads postpartum:

  • 21% reported that either they or both parents experienced postpartum depression.
  • 51% reported losing touch with friends after becoming a dad.
  • Only 8% reported making new friends.

Conventional wisdom holds that mom groups and the like are ubiquitous, but the same seems not to hold true for dads.

The Workplace as a Source of Support—and Stress

Fifty percent of the dads feel supported by their job, which can be looked at as either glass half empty or full. Half of dads don’t feel like they’re getting what they need from work in terms of support. One participant said he would like more support and educational resources such as “parental leave policies that allow fathers to take time off work to bond with their newborns, access to parenting classes or support groups, and flexible work arrangements that allow fathers to be more present in their children’s lives.”

The responses around work issues paint an interesting picture:

  • 62% of the participants name earning income as their most significant stressor
  • 59% report feeling responsible for the household’s income
  • Less than half (40%) reported having taken a mental health day
  • Only 30% said they’d never heard of mental health days

Therapy isn’t too common amongst dads either, with mental health diagnoses and care varying based on income. While 28% of dads surveyed had previously received a mental health condition diagnosis, the number rose to 31% for those with a household income under $75,000. Similarly, while only 22% of participants currently see a therapist or counselor, that percentage rises to 25% for those with a household income over $75,000.

A person’s salary plays a huge factor in whether or not they’ll seek out therapy. One-third of the people who used to see a therapist stopped because it was too expensive, and 43% of those who considered it never went due to cost.

Another 25% of the dads refrained from therapy for fear of being judged.

How to Reach Out for Support

It’s up to you to seek out support, but it doesn’t need to be a scary experience. “Even though it makes sense for dads to feel hesitant about expressing their emotions, that doesn’t mean that this is how they want to operate. For dads hoping to be more communicative and vulnerable, I would encourage them to offer themselves compassion and to start small,” says Lurie, “to take steps towards more open communication while soothing themselves when they feel uncomfortable and to recognize what happens and what they potentially gain when they do.”

The first step is thinking about what type of support you want. Are you looking for a friend to vent to every so often? Do you want a fellow dad to talk to who will understand your stresses? Do you hope to discuss your deep emotions with your partner or a family member? Once you identify where emotional support is missing from your life, take steps to fill it with people who make you feel safe.

Need help figuring out how to start the conversation? Lurie suggests the following: “Things have been difficult for me recently, and our relationship means a lot to me. Could we check in weekly? Knowing we will talk about what has been going on and that you’ll be texting or calling me would help.”

To ease any nerves, you could have this conversation while doing another activity. For example, ask your friend to go on an early evening run with you and bring it up as you jog along, says Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, a clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University in New York City. Texting or calling them is also fine if you want to avoid discussing it in person or if they live far away.

Think about if there are multiple people in your life you can talk to or if therapy is an option. While your loved ones should be happy to support you, a single person can’t do it all. When it’s self-care time, follow the lead of the dads surveyed, who mentioned using techniques like exercise, meditation, playing music, gaming, and getting fresh air.

Talking to Your Kids About Mental Health

As for talking about mental health with your children, actions can be just as important as words. In showing your kids that healthy expression of your emotions and taking the time to care for yourself is OK, you give them space to do the same, says Minor. You can create a safe space for them to share how they feel without fear of judgement.

If they’re not as inclined to speak with you at first, provide them with age-appropriate information detailing different emotions, coping mechanisms, and why support is so important—you might also learn something. If they do want to talk, Lurie says not to be afraid to tell personal stories of seeking mental health support to normalize it and present it as a show of strength.

Just like you want ongoing support and dialogue from loved ones, so does your kid. “Like most topics, talking about mental health will not be a singular discussion,” says Lurie.” Continue having ongoing conversations and encourage your child to come to you with whatever questions and thoughts they have about their or others’ emotions and mental health.”

Methodology

Verywell Mind and Parents surveyed 1,600 American dads aged 18+ from April 26th to May 8th, 2023. The survey was fielded online via a self-administered questionnaire to an opt-in panel of respondents from a market research vendor. Quotas were used to ensure representation to match U.S. Census estimates for race/ethnicity and region.

Source: 3 in 4 Dads Want More Mental Health Support, Verywell Mind Survey Finds (yahoo.com)

Categories: Mental Health News