The Mighty Logo

9 Secrets of Dads Who Live With Mental Illness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

We often look to our dads for protection, wisdom and guidance. Maybe they’re the man who slays the dragons under our beds. Or maybe they teach us how to throw our first baseball on a crisp fall day. They’re almost always the one person who refuses to read the instruction manuals of, well, anything. And they’re often the man who furiously searches for solutions to problems that have left us in a puddle of tears on the bathroom floor.

Dads can be a child’s biggest role model — their superhero, if you will. But sometimes, we forget that dads must confront their own battles. That is why we asked the dads of The Mighty’s mental health community to tell us the “secrets” they wished others knew about being a father who lives with mental illness. Because even though dads may be our superheroes, doesn’t mean they don’t deal with the symptoms, stigma and effects of mental illness.

Here’s what they said:

1. “I’m doing everything I can so my daughters can grow up in a world where they aren’t afraid to ask for help if they need it.” — Sean H.

2. “I wish people understood what it’s like be a parent, want nothing bad to ever happen to your kids and still want to end your own life.” — Shawn H.

3. “I didn’t ask for this illness. [I wish others would] understand it more.” — Kev C.

4. “I guess it would be a story I tell my kids: A young person walking down the street sees a big, strapping man grunting and sweating carrying a large backpack across his back. The young person laughed because while the pack was big, the man hauling it was obviously powerful. The man stopped, unslung the pack, and set it down. ‘Pick it up,’ he told the young person. They tried and the pack didn’t budge. They got friends to help lift it and the friends left when they realized how difficult it was. After watching for a bit, the man opened the pack to show it was filled with lead bricks and then re-slung the pack across his shoulders. The young person asked why he carried the burden, to which the man replied, ‘It’s my burden.’ The young person’s heart went out to the man, and he traveled with the man, pushing up on the pack to ease the weight.

My eldest girl has taken this story to heart and helps folks whenever she can, my boy is too young to do much more than hug his daddy’s neck, but even that helps ease my own pack.” — Kevin G.

5. “Not so much to understand, but to step back and listen to what I’m opening up with.” — Andrew T.

6. “To understand how tough it is — trying to be the dad you so want to be, but the OCD is questioning every single move you make. Also understanding you may seem to be distant but it’s only because you love your family so much and you are genuinely scared.” — Robert K.

7. “I wish people would not view me as some sort of monster. Many years have gone by without being able to be a father to my son due to the thoughts of some people thinking that mental illness makes a person dangerous.” — Gordon M.

8. “My kids (who are adults now) are very understanding and supportive. I just told them I’m still the same person and don’t treat me any different.” — Glen C.

9. “I wish mental illness was not viewed as a character flaw/weakness!” — Mark C.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

What would you add?

Originally published: June 17, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home