Ian Dinwiddy, founder and director of Inspiring Dads, writes about how work can impact mental health
In mental health awareness week it’s imperative to look at the role work, and the work-life balance can play in our lives.
More and more guys are seeking out the help they need when facing mental health challenges. The stigma is fading and make no mistake this is a good thing – a mental health crisis can have devastating consequences.
Here’s three conversations you wouldn’t have heard a few years back – bits of conversations or messages from a Facebook group I’m part of:
“Right – must dash. Off to see my therapist, got diagnosed with PTSD in December.”
“Hey buddy, how’s things? Random ask, but in your line of work, have you come across any counsellors in the London area that you could / would recommend? This break up has been pretty tough, and it’s made me realise that I need to talk to someone about underlying issues… Saw your blog post today and made me think you might have contacts?”
“Struggling with depression atm and waiting to speak to a CBT lady. I’m trying to crack on with fitness and sort my weight and look for new jobs + worries about how much there is to do at home! Been keeping busy but things just feel hollow atm and some nights dreading going home for some reason. I’m sure things will level off just gotta keep fighting m8!”
How many dads are struggling day to day with the stress of work, work-life balance and missing seeing their kids grow up?
The truth is that a full blown mental health crisis affects relatively few men. And in the case of many mental health issues an improved work life balance is not the solution alone. But many many more men struggle along silently – torn between their desire to provide for their family and be a present, involved dad. For them, finding the right blend of work and family life would make a difference to their happiness and stress levels.
GQ magazine found that the Number One aspect of modern masculinity, identified by 66% of men was “being a present father”. While 11% of men have refused a new job and 10% have said no to a promotion because of a lack of good work life balanced opportunities.
The dominant narrative is still one of men being “providers” and women being “carers”. Men face higher rates of rejection for flexible working, while women take their engagement rings off before interviews. Society, the workplace and their own expectations all conspire to put a lot of pressure on men to have it all or do it all.
Here’s another comment from that Facebook group I mentioned: “Hi fellas. I joined this group recently because it’s really important to me to be massively engaged in my children’s lives for as long as their childhoods last. At the same time, I want to make progress in my career. That balance can be hard, especially when so many people perceive caring fathers as uncommitted to their jobs.”
That last line is pretty shocking but too many of us know it’s true.
Outwardly successful men will struggle on without truly opening up to someone about what they really want. Head down, be strong. Then guess what? A work life balance issue becomes a mental health crisis. But you’re not alone and we can make things better. Here’s some simple steps that would improve everyone’s work and life.
Normalise flexible and part time work for men.
Senior men to lead by example – embracing flexible working opportunities – making it ok to spend time with your kids, being flexible.
Change the working culture so that raising happy, successful children isn’t just a seen as a female thing.
Dads will be happier and more fulfilled and the opportunities for families to choose how best to arrange their working lives will increase.
If you think you need help, reach out and ask for it whether that be via a friend or a medical professional or an appropriate Facebook group. I reckon you’ll be surprised not just by the sympathetic hearing you’ll get but by the number of people you’ll discover who have felt exactly the same way.
As one guy in our FB group said “I’d go so far as to say that – for the sake of those closest to you, as well as for yourself – getting help is the most important thing to do sometimes. Unfortunately, those are so often the times when it’s the very hardest thing to do. But you’re not alone. And it’s empowering to those who are suffering to know that, and hopefully helps them keep things in perspective, and take those steps towards self care and looking after their own well-being.”
It can be tough to take the first step and open up to someone, but it makes so much difference once you start.
Ian Dinwiddy is Founder and Director of Inspiring Dads – a coaching business specialising in supporting men with their work life balance.