Researchers have traditionally paid little attention to the intersections between men’s mental illness and family life. Recently, however, this has been changing. This paper provides practitioners and policy-makers with a broad overview of some of the key issues identified in the growing literature on paternal mental illness.
- Compared to many other life stages, the transition to fatherhood and the early years of childrearing are periods in which men are at a substantially increased risk of experiencing psychological distress.
- The children of men with a mental illness are more likely than other children to experience internalising (i.e., emotional) and externalising (i.e., behavioural) problems, as well as to be diagnosed with a mental illness themselves.
- Parenting behaviour is one of the mechanisms by which parental mental illness may translate into problem outcomes in children. Fathers with a mental illness are more likely than other fathers to show low levels of parental engagement, warmth and appropriate monitoring.
- The scarce qualitative literature exploring fathers' experiences of mental illness suggests that fatherhood is central to the image many men have of themselves - their experience of mental illness and their paternal identity are inextricably linked.
- Stigma is a significant source of suffering for many people with mental health concerns. Fathers with a mental illness can be subject to unique forms of stigma, which can influence their perceptions and experiences in a number of ways.
- Psychiatric and welfare service providers in Australia and internationally have often struggled to effectively engage fathers, either failing to see men as members of a family unit, or failing to offer services tailored to their specific needs.