Numerous scholars and practitioners have deemed the mental and behavioral health challenges faced by men and fathers a national “silent” crisis." For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in ten men in the U.S. experience some form of daily depression or anxiety, but only 40 percent of these men will seek treatment. For those who do seek help, treatment does not begin for an average of 11 years from the onset of their symptoms. Left untreated, men’s mental health challenges often result in dire consequences for fathers and the mental health and well-being of their partners and children. The mental health challenges of fathers have been exacerbated by:
- The Empathy Gap: society’s lack of sympathy for men manifested in the stigma and silence around men’s mental health needs, the dearth of available resources, and the use of harmful narratives that blame and chastise men for their mental and behavioral health troubles, implying that their own behavior, character deficits, or lack of God’s favor are the root cause.
- Self-imposed, familial, and societal expectations for fathers to appear strong and stoic, thereby not asking for help or seeking treatment.
- The socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Unhealthy behaviors may temporarily relieve mental health symptoms but ultimately lead to alcohol use disorders, substance abuse and misuse, eating disorders, and suicidality.
Join the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse for a 2-day national Fatherhood Virtual Event devoted to giving voice to the nature and scope of mental health challenges faced by fathers and exploring approaches that help fathers access behavioral and mental health treatment, services and support to help alleviate their suffering and bolster their parenting skills.
During this event, we will:
- Build the capacity of fatherhood practitioners and staff of health and human services agencies by equipping them with knowledge of current research, resources, policies, and tools that will help them understand and identify fathers with mental health challenges and expand their services to include the full diversity of fathers who need access to effective mental health supports.
- Raise awareness of mental health disorders; deconstruct the stigma often associated with seeking and receiving treatment, particularly among certain minority groups; and consider strategies to help fathers receive treatment when needed.
- Discuss ways to screen for mental and behavioral health challenges that fathers may face and how to provide appropriate services based on the severity of any identified symptoms or challenges.
- Share essential strategies that service providers, public health and human service professionals, and community advocates can use to address and support fathers' mental health.
- Hear program recommendations from fathers who have benefited from mental health treatment and services and learned to navigate living with a mental or behavioral health condition, including what helps and harms their ability to provide positive, nurturing parenting for their children.
12:00 - 12:15 PM | Welcome and Event Overview
NRFC 2023 Virtual Event
- Ann Flagg, MPA, Director, Office of Family Assistance, Administration for Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human Services
- Seth F. Chamberlain, MA, Division Director, Office of Family Assistance, Federal and Economic Stability Demonstration and Innovation Division, Administration for Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human Services
- Kenneth Braswell, CEO, Fathers Incorporated and Project Director, National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse
12:15 - 1:30 PM | Understanding the Silent Mental Health Crisis Among Men and Fathers
Becoming a parent increases the risk of mental health problems for both men and women, but there is limited research examining this issue, particularly for fathers. In this session, we will provide an overview of mental health issues that fathers may face. We will discuss key risk factors, symptoms, and social determinants of mental health that explain the high prevalence of various disorders among men and fathers, including suicidality and substance use disorders. Field experts will describe what we know and the knowledge gaps that must be addressed.
1:45 - 3:00 PM | Closing the Empathy Gap: Strategies to Reduce Shame and Stigma Associated with Fathers' Mental Health
Societal, practitioner, and familial sympathy is notably lacking for men with mental health issues. Stanford University Professor Philip Zimbardo calls this an "empathy gap." Don't miss our expert panel as they challenge and deconstruct views of mental and behavioral health challenges among men and fathers often viewed from deficit-based models. This model frequently focuses on victim blaming or assumptions that fathers should "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" or seek help individually. Alternatively, this panel will focus on ways to progress toward a society aware of health disparities and prepared to ameliorate the social and cultural stigma and practices perpetuating these disparities.
3:15 - 4:30 PM | Man in The Mirror: Fathers Share Mental and Behavioral Health Challenges and How They Addressed Them
You don't want to miss this panel of fathers who will share inspirational stories of how they overcame mental health stigma, rigid gender stereotypes, and shame to arrive at a place where they could acknowledge their mental and behavioral health challenges, ask for help, and—perhaps most importantly—accept help and participate in treatment. Session participants will learn how these dads navigated living with a mental health condition, what helped and harmed their journeys to achieving daily wellness, and how improving their mental health has transformed how they parent and their ability to become better fathers.
4:30 - 4:45 PM | Special Fireside Chat with Author Kwame Alexander
Join us for an intimate fireside chat with Kwame Alexander, #1 New York Times Bestselling author, poet, and producer, as he delves into the pages of his groundbreaking memoir, "Why Fathers Cry at Night". This conversation will highlight the importance of men expressing their emotional and mental health struggles. It will also explore the intricate tapestry of fatherhood, love, mental health, and resilience. Expect to be moved, motivated, and changed by Alexander's powerful testament to the transformative power of sharing one's truth.
4:45 - 5:00 PM | Recap of Day 1
Recap of Day 1, NRFC 2023 Virtual Event
12:00 - 12:15 PM | Welcome and Recap of Day 1
NRFC 2023 Virtual Event
12:15 - 1:30 PM | Fathers' Mental Health Impacts on Child Well-Being
Mental health issues make it more difficult for dads to engage in nurturing, interactive relationships with their children and partners. When fathers' mental health declines, the quality of their co-parenting relationships and the well-being of their children also declines. Fathers may experience various psychiatric disorders during parenthood, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive behavior, or substance use disorders, which can harm their children's development in detrimental ways. Join this critical discussion on what we know about this topic and what knowledge gaps remain. In this session, we will also discuss our understanding of fathers' mental health as it relates to racial and ethnic differences and the prevalence and needs of mental health disorders among fathers in less common parenting situations (e.g., single, noncustodial, stay-at-home, same-sex, military, incarcerated, and long-distance fathers).
1:45 - 3:00 PM | First Do No Harm: Screening and Serving Fathers with Mental and Substance Abuse Disorders
Programs serving fathers must identify and intervene when fathers are engaged in risky alcohol and substance use or facing other mental health problems. Early screening can assess the presence and severity of mental and substance use disorders (M/SUD) and identify appropriate types and levels of treatment. Interventions can focus on increasing client insight and awareness regarding M/SUD, their motivation to change behavior, and their willingness to accept referrals for more extensive treatment. This session is intended for policymakers, researchers, nonmedical and medical service providers, and leaders of government agencies seeking to understand the complexities of mental and substance use disorders and learn about effective screening and intervention tools for suffering and at-risk fathers.
3:15 - 4:30 PM | Plenary: The Promise of Hope Found in Fatherhood
Fatherhood can be joyful and rewarding, but it isn't always easy. No matter how positive and rewarding the role can be, parenting is also very demanding. Fatherhood also has many ideals attached to it, meaning that some dads feel pressured to live up to high expectations. Although each man experiences the transition to fatherhood differently, the transition is always transformational—changing a father's perspectives, attitudes, and goals forever. This stimulating lecture will describe how fatherhood can catalyze positive life changes for fathers and their children.
4:30 - 5:00 PM | Closing Remarks/Evaluations
NRFC 2023 Virtual Event