Trigger warning: this piece contains details of Mark’s mental health journey. Please take care when reading. If you need support, please refer to our Urgent Warning. The views that Mark expresses in this article are his own, based on his experience.
Mental health doesn’t have a gender. I had my first panic attack after watching my wife give birth to our son (she had an emergency C-section). Then I suffered from depression, and I felt totally helpless. There are loads of possible reasons for this: was it because I had low self-esteem at school? Was it because I had undiagnosed ADHD?
I suffered in silence for about five years. I didn’t want to tell my wife how I was feeling because I didn’t want it to have an impact on her. I didn’t know what depression looked like until I got to crisis point. After I reached out for help I received cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and also started practicing mindfulness and walking.
The good news is that NHS England announced last year that new fathers and fathers-to-be will be offered mental health checks if their partner is suffering anxiety, psychosis or postnatal depression. This is good news, but it’s not great news. Sometimes only dad is struggling, so it’s got to be a more holistic approach. In my opinion, men sometimes suppress their feelings, and they might turn to alcohol or become angry. I’ve come across dads, like myself, who have used these negative coping strategies when dealing with mental health conditions. Let’s not forget that many dads have existing mental health issues that they’re dealing with. We can’t forget about dads when discussing parents’ mental health.
My son might be a father one day and I want this cycle to break in his generation. He’s 14 now and we talk about mental health together. He’s aware of what I do and he wants to go into the healthcare field when he’s older. If you’re a dad and you’re going through it now, don’t suffer in silence. The quicker you get the help, the quicker the recovery is. I now run the lobby group Fathers Reaching Out – I have spoken around the world to raise the profile of perinatal mental health issues faced by fathers and campaign for better support.