Online platforms that offer mental health support for fathers

The mental health of fathers has a ripple effect. Picture: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

The mental health of fathers has a ripple effect. Picture: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

Published Jun 10, 2024


As Father's Day approaches on June 16, it's not just about celebrating dads; it's about recognising the importance of their mental well-being.

The mental health of fathers has a ripple effect, impacting not only dads themselves but also their partners, children and the overall family dynamic.

When fathers silently struggle with mental health issues, the emotional and psychological balance of the entire family is thrown off.

According to Vital Baby’s Dr Anthony Nedelman, a respected authority on paternal mental health, early intervention and supportive networks that are adapted to dads' experiences are essential for meeting the urgent requirements of fathers when it comes to their mental health.

In today's fast-paced world, dads juggle various responsibilities, from financial responsibilities and childhood trauma to a lack of role models to teach men to cope with problems by themselves and the use of unhealthy coping behaviours, such as drugs or alcohol, to get by.

The list seems never-ending.

Yet, society often overlooks men’s mental health struggles. It's time to acknowledge that fathers play a pivotal role in family stability and well-being.

Fortunately, there are resources available to support dads in navigating their mental health journey. Support groups, therapy options and online tools tailored specifically for fathers offer accessible avenues for seeking help.

Black men are less likely to seek mental health help than any other race. Picture: Greta Hoffman/Pexels

Organisations are adopting father-inclusive policies and providing flexible delivery options to facilitate fathers' access to support services.

According to Sonke Gender Justice, South Africa is experiencing an alarming surge in suicide rates, with men being disproportionately affected.

According to a survey by the South African Society of Psychiatrists, South Africa has the ninth-highest suicide rate, with 23.5 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

Men accounted for 10,861 of the 13,774 reported suicides in South Africa. This situation necessitates rethinking how we treat men's mental health issues.

While societal norms may discourage men from seeking help when they're struggling emotionally, a growing number of online platforms are stepping up to provide support when the burden feels too heavy to handle alone.

Men's mental health has long been shrouded in silence and stigma, but the landscape is gradually shifting. With increased awareness and advocacy, more men are finding the courage to speak out about their mental health challenges.

Platforms like HeadsUpGuys and the Fathers’ Mental Health Network offer invaluable resources and advocacy tailored to men's mental health.

One such platform making waves in South Africa is "ManUp Mental Health", a community-driven initiative aimed at destigmatising mental health issues among men.

Through its online forums and resources, ManUp provides a supportive environment where men can openly discuss their mental health concerns without fear of judgement.

It’s a safe space for men to share their experiences, seek guidance and connect with others facing similar struggles.

Additionally, the platform offers access to professional counselling services and mental health experts, ensuring that men receive the help they need.

Other noteworthy resources are Panda Health, now known as October Health, and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, which are virtual support groups specifically tailored for people dealing with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

Founded by mental health advocates, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADG) and October Health offer regular online meetings, peer support sessions and educational workshops to empower men on their journey toward healing and recovery.

Another platform that is shifting the narrative in South African universities is the “Madoda Sabelani Imbizo”, which focuses on issues such as men's health and leadership.

Despite being a pilot campaign, Imbizo was held successfully at the University of the Free State (UFS) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) last year.

The project included events such as the Hiking Pledge, in which students pledged not to suffer in silence. The hiking component sought to stimulate introspection and interpersonal development by utilising nature and physical activity to promote open communication.

Beyond dedicated platforms, social media has also played a significant role in fostering conversations about men's mental health.

Hashtags like #MentalHealthMatters and #BreakTheStigma have gained traction, encouraging men to share their stories and seek support from their online communities.

However, while these digital platforms offer valuable resources, experts still push for the importance of seeking professional help when needed.

Experts and mental health advocates all around the world hail a holistic approach to men's mental health, which may include therapy, medication and lifestyle changes.

As we celebrate Men's Health Month, the conversation around men's mental health must continue year-round.

The journey to destigmatise men's mental health may be ongoing, but the emergence of online platforms offers a glimmer of hope for those struggling in silence.

Through solidarity, support and shared experiences, men in South Africa will and are finding strength in communities as they navigate the complexities of mental health.