Dads Matter in Mental Health

Mental Illness in Men: Awareness, Detection and Treatment

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One in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness, meaning, 20% of men and women will require mental health care at some point throughout their lifetime. Despite the fact that the overall rates of mental disorders are equal in men and women, it has been well established that men are much less likely than women to seek and receive treatment. Although there are many factors to explain this discrepancy, it’s worth taking a look at what needs to be done to ensure men seek and receive equal and adequate care.

For starters, it is important for men to be aware when they have symptoms of mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety or alcohol abuse. Studies have shown that men are less likely to acknowledge symptoms of mental illness compared to women. Doctors also need to be more aware that men suffer from all forms of mental illness and that these illnesses can impair a man’s functioning at home even before it interferes with their ability to work.

This increase in awareness, along with better public education and individual engagement, should improve the accurate detection of mental health disorders in men. In some cases, doctors are quick to diagnose alcohol abuse in men and overlook symptoms of depression. The sooner any disorder can be identified the earlier treatment can begin. Unfortunately men are more likely to receive help when their illness is quite severe, causing significant disruption to their lives.

Effective treatment requires making the right diagnosis, educating the patient, and providing interventions that improve a man’s symptoms and quality of life. In order to provide this type of care, the health care system needs to take a closer look at how to deliver these services to men in a way that truly works. Many university hospitals have well-established Women’s Mental Health Programs designed to treat the unique needs of women, especially mental health issues that arise during pregnancy. These programs can be used as a model to develop Men’s Mental Health Programs that are designed to engage men in order to better understand and treat their unique mental health needs. (Yes, even a women’s pregnancy can be a vulnerable time for the expectant father to develop symptoms of a mental disorder).

Acknowledging, detecting and treating the 20% of us who have a mental health disorder will have a profound impact on our social health. Mental illnesses may negatively influence our behaviour and quite often impair our daily functioning, our relationships and our roles within society including our role as a father. One thing our children need, are fathers who model ways to maintain their mental wellness, and for those fathers with mental illness, it is important that they acknowledge their condition and seek treatment.

Andrew Howlett MD FRCPC

Psychiatrist and Researcher in Men’s/Fathers’ Mental Health

Toronto

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2 thoughts on “Dads Matter in Mental Health

  1. God Bless all of your extra advocacy efforts, take care and have an amazing day!

    Peace and Hope, Steve De Quintal Teacher, Bishop Marrocco / Thomas Merton CSS, 1515 Bloor St. W.. Toronto, Ontario M6P-1A3. 416-393-5545 ext. 84293 “To Think, to pray and to serve.” “Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” Charles H. Spurgeon *****You can always email but a call or a visit will get a quicker response***** ________________________________________

  2. A thought-provoking article Dr. Howlett. It made me curious and took it upon myself to do a very quick search for resources in Toronto that specifically supports fathers with mental health issues and did not have any luck. If they are available they may be scarce or difficult to find. I agree that awareness and education are the first steps in ensuring that this population receive the care that they need. Having a better understanding on the unique challenges that fathers with mental health issues face is also necessary. I could only imagine how difficult it must be to cope with mental health issues and at the same time fulfill the duties of a father with limited to zero support from the community. Hopefully this article will inspire others to engage in discussions and research that will lead to creating accessible resources for this population.

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