Dads urged to break silence

Dads are being urged to break the silence and start a conversation with their boys which could be vital to their mental health.

headspace launched its annual Fathers Campaign last week, encouraging dads to speak to their sons about mental health issues. With latest figures showing just 13 per cent of boys report any mental health concerns, the agency is eager to help boys break down perceived stigmas around mental health issues and speak up.

NRL star Nathan Hindmarsh is the face of this year’s campaign, saying at the launch he was proud to support the initiative as a father of four boys.

“I look at my four boys and I want them to know that I will always be available to talk to them – day or night – whatever problem they may be facing,” Hindmarsh said.

He said dads needed to learn the triggers and warning signs attached to mental illness to be able to support their children through it.

“Often just talking about it is the hardest, but most important step to take when dealing with mental health worries,” he said.

headspace chief executive Jason Trethowan said mental health concerns were one of many issues that traditionally went unsaid between fathers and sons and the campaign aimed to change this dynamic.

“In past generations men were sometimes reluctant to open up about mental health issues but with the services and support available today we should be able to change that,”Mr Trethowan said.

He said fathers could play a key role in identifying early signs of mental illness and helping their sons but were unsure how to start a conversation with their boys and were unaware of services available to help.

“From a practical level, dads can set the scene and think about where they are going to have a conversation, in the car perhaps, or kicking the footy – the conversation should be had in a safe and comfortable space.”

headspace offers information on its website about encouraging young people to speak about their mental health;

  • Think about how you can talk about and manage your own feelings – often young people are worried about their parents being upset, anxious, overwhelmed, shocked, angry, or blaming. If a young person can see their parent might be able to respond calmly and listen they are more likely to begin a conversation – if you are not sure how to respond contact support services to seek advice
  • Be available without being intrusive
  • Spend regular time with your child – it will help keep communication lines open
  • Show interest in their lives and try not to focus on things you think are a problem
  • Take their feelings seriously – show empathy, listen and don’t judge
  • Encourage and support positive friendships
  • Let them know you love them

For more information from headspace about dealing with mental illness in adolescents visit www.headspace.org.au/dads