The answer is YES!
Every November, National Men’s Health Awareness Month raises awareness and provides support for those facing prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health issues.
NFI recently hosted a training by the Good+Foundation called Mental Health: First Aid for Fathers. The presenter, Dr. Alan-Michael Graves, asked each participant to introduce themself and share how they were doing. Naturally, he was met with a number of polite responses like: “I’m good,” “doing fine,” “I’m blessed,” etc.
Then, he asked the group, “What is the difference between mental health and mental illness?” Many had never thought about that and didn’t have an answer.
The terms “mental health” and “mental illness” are sometimes interchanged, but they differ in meaning. While mental health refers to anyone's state of mental and emotional well-being, mental illnesses are diagnosed conditions that affect thoughts and behaviors.
Dr. Graves pointed out that part of maintaining mental health is being self-aware and honest in acknowledging how you are feeling because we all have mental health issues. When he posed the same questions to the participants again, they were not allowed to say good or fine, but to state how they really felt. The responses were a bit different this time – they were “tired,” “happy,” “overwhelmed,” “grieving,” “overextended,” “stressed,” “worried about money,” “having an ill child at home while at this training.” These are mental health issues. These statements expressed their current state of mental, emotional well-being – and some not so well.
This was an effective exercise that raised awareness in these practitioners about their own mental health issues and how others in the group had similar challenges and could empathize with each other. Yet, almost all in the training acknowledged that they avoid the topic of mental health with the fathers they serve because they are not licensed therapists or counselors.
Mental Health can often feel like an uncomfortable topic to address, but starting the conversation with an understanding that fathers are particularly vulnerable to mental health challenges compared to all men. Depression, anxiety, anger, and substance use are common mental health challenges fathers face. These are usually secondary emotions that result from or are caused by something else.
The Mental Health First Aid from National Council for Mental Wellbeing recommends simply having the conversation and using the following Mental Health 5-Step Plan called ALGEE:
- Assess people’s risk of harm or suicide
- Listen without judgment
- Give reassurance and information
- Encourage appropriate professional help
- Encourage self-help and other support strategies
Hopefully, your organization has protocols in place and can point fathers to wrap-around services for support.
NFI can help as well.
Threaded throughout NFI’s core programs, such as 24/7 Dad® and InsideOut Dad®, fathers raise their awareness and get to explore topics like Family History, What it Means to be a Man, Showing and Handling Feelings, and Men’s Health – all with activities to help fathers understand those primary emotions and the behaviors and situations that contributed to their current situations and mental health.
The 24/7 Dad® Key Behaviors Workshop helps fathers further explore the 5 characteristics, which are:
- Caring for self
- Parenting skills
- Fathering skills
- Relationship skills.
And fathers get to explore their impact on all their relationships (e.g., with his spouse/partner, friends, children, family, and work).
NFI programs help fathers go on a journey of self-discovery and learn the skills and knowledge to become the best, healthiest father and partner they can be. The session Men’s Health, for example, emphasizes that fathers need to care for themselves first, so they are able to care for their child and create new patterns of health and well-being for the next generation.
To learn more, visit https://goodplusfoundation.org.