It’s not funny when working dads play The Joker

Adam Gill saw his mental health suffer when he tried too hard to be a good dad and a funny friend. Now he’s set up a support group for other fathers.

Lego figure of The Joker from Batman


With Time to Talk Day falling this week many men have been opening up about their mental health. Adam Gill is a working dad in Sheffield who saw his mental health suffer before he came to terms with who he is. As part of his ongoing self care and in an effort to help others he started blogging about his experiences and feelings. And he set up a support group that quickly attracted other working dads who related to his situation.

He’s blogged for us about what he’s learned. And with the Oscars this Sunday there’s a timely theme to it..

Joaquin Phoenix looks set to win an Oscar for his turn playing The Joker at the weekend.

It’s an iconic role because it’s one so familiar to so many men. Hiding behind humour. But it’s not healthy.

I know, because I’ve done it too. 


I’ve always had this quick wit, often sarcastic. The ability to make a room laugh when in a group.

It’s all a façade. It’s a way of hiding in a crowd. Often I make jokes because I’m nervous and just don’t want to be there. It is a way of masking my insecurities and embarrassment at times.

But it isn’t right to hide who you are.

Yes, it is amazing to make people laugh and for everyone to think “He is so funny”, or “His wit is so quick, I don’t know how he thinks so fast”. It is a defence mechanism, a guard. It is the flight when I should fight.

No, I am not physically running away, nor do I physically want to fight. But, it is a scary thought that I’d rather hide my true personality, cover up my real emotion rather than be seen for what I truly am. Which in most scenarios is scared, nervous, anxious.


Creating a face, a personality, a character in the nervous situations in life takes energy. That energy needs recharging. Us men need stimulation to recharge them batteries. In hindsight I wish I had managed to keep up with football, the gym, or climbing.

Yes, you have children and you have to cut back on some things due to time and/or money constraints. But do we need to give up everything? That midweek five-a-side game can help to relieve stress, blow off steam and lift your mood.

I seriously miss that camaraderie of team sports, getting older only makes playing harder.


It has become so easy for me to have banter with colleagues, family and friends. In these social environments it is the sarcastic and quick wit which is more often than not my go to response. It annoys me at times, so it must really annoy others at times.

Recently finding my voice in my blog, with a select few colleagues and some family and close friends has made me realise it isn’t just good to talk it is vital.

I promise, I have found out more about myself in the last few months than I can believe. Behind the roaring laugh is often hiding a panicking wreck shattered from nights of sleepless worry-ridden nights making light of another situation.

At the same time I started my blog I started a men’s only forum on Facebook called “a Dad’s Mind”. This group quickly grew, and became as important to me as it was the men who had joined. We have since had a couple of meet ups in my home town of Sheffield. (Find details here)

What has become incredibly obvious to me now, hit me like a bolt. Idle chit chat and mindless banter between men has a place. But we need to make room for serious conversation, we need to discuss our feelings with someone. Us men have a serious issue with being serious.

The Joker

“Why so serious?” The Joker might say. 

But what is the point in my being miserable and absent whilst being in a room full of family if no one knows what I am hiding. We are hiding these feelings from ourselves more importantly. Let the feelings out, share them with a best friend. Family. A colleague.

I packed in all of my hobbies and interests. It felt like the answer at the time. I’d be a better dad because I’d be at home more. But this solution that I came up with ended up being the problem, the start of a downward spiral where I lost track of who I am. I became a sort of beige person in my own mind.

Speaking up has been an emotional rollercoaster and yes at times I have felt crazier than ever. 

Slowly but surely I am coming to terms with this fact: I am normal. 

I am a man, a father, that struggles. The worst that can come from talking to someone is that I have cried in front of people. I am man enough to admit it. But man, does it feel better.

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