Sunday, 3 March 2019

A mental health conversation with my dad

Often the conversations I have surrounding mental health are with other people who "get it", so I thought I would shake it up and so was born this series. A series where I will have a range of conversations about mental health with various people in my life. Previously I had a conversation with my mum which can be found here. In this post I have a conversation with my dad.

Before you get stuck in, I would like to thank everyone for all of the questions that were sent in. Some of them, however, were unable to be answered. My dad and I have not always had the easiest relationship and due to the fact that for most of my life we haven't lived together, it was difficult to answer some of the questions sent in. 

Hi dad, first and foremost, can you introduce yourself please.

I am Andy, Angela's dad

Just like with mum, if there are any questions you don't want to answer then you don't have to. The first set of questions are from me; first up, what is it like having a child with mental health issues?

I am going to base this on all 4 of you; it is hard because you don't know what is going on inside your child's head. You and L are both very inwards, whereas M and S are outwards, you can tell when they are in pain. For example, with you, you have always hidden it very well, you can put a good facade on, whereas M doesn't. It is hard to put down in words. With M you can see the problem, with you-you can't but I know it is there.

Personally, I felt like once I opened up to you about my mental health problems that we became closer and that our relationship improved, would you say the same is true for you? Why? 

I think so. I think to me there was a stage of your life where, maybe it was your age, you had a few issues with me. Me knowing what you are going through puts me on the same page as you and then we can understand each other more and it's no longer a secret. I'm glad you did open up and that you felt that you could. It is important for honesty between children and their parents. Whoever is suffering from mental illness needs to talk to their loved ones.

As a man do you find it harder to express how you are feeling? Why? 

No, I think I am pretty confident to talk about most things. I think as a younger person I blocked out a lot of things in my life as a way of coping so I never had to deal with how I was feeling. I dealt with things by working. However, today if someone asks how I am, I give a pretty honest answer. If I am feeling a bit down, I am honest. I wouldn't necessarily tell them I have anxiety or that I am feeling down but I would say that I am feeling rubbish, if they are close they would ask more questions wouldn't they.

What advice would you give to a parent who has just found out that their child has a mental illness? (You don't need to draw on your experience with me, you can draw on being a parent/step-parent to all 4 of us) 

I think the most important thing is to listen and to talk to the child to find out what the problem is, find out more details. If the child wants to open up, you have to be there to listen. Ask your child questions and try to get to know the illness. 

Do you think that by having me as your daughter that you have become more aware of your mental health? 

No, absolutely not. I come from a family with a history of mental illness; I was 12/13 years old watching my mum go away in a straitjacket and I have a brother who also suffers from ill mental health. I was ok until my thyroid went and then it has caused me to suffer from anxiety. So no, I was aware of mental illness before.

These next questions have come from other people via social media, again the same applies, if there are questions you don't want to answer you don't have to. So first up, what has been the most difficult thing for you as a parent/step-parent to children with mental illnesses? 

I think it is hearing and seeing your children in pain. Sometimes you can hear it in their voices and see it in their eyes. The hardest thing is not having the answers, you can't buy your way out of it or give them medicine to make them happy. I can't get into your head to help you; all the money and all the best things in the world can't change it, it's up to the individual to hopefully find a way through it.

When supporting your daughters' mental health, do you ever feel totally helpless? 

I suppose we are all helpless to a certain degree because it is the individuals' problem, you can't make someone happy.

Do you wish people spoke more about mental health when you were younger?

I think there is a lot more around these days, we name things more. Back in the day mental health wasn't spoken about, you didn't know much about it. I was too busy being a child, despite the mental haelth issues in the family. As an adult now I'm not so sure I would. My mum was ill and I couldn't change that and I understood that from the word go, so I don't think that a conversation would have actually improved anything. I didn't want to talk about mental health as a child, I wanted to be a child and enjoy being a child. You are only a child once, don't be too serious. Try not to be too serious as an adult either, but obviously, there are still issues that need to be dealt with and I understand that.

What is the thing you know about mental health now that you wished you knew before? 

I think it would be about cannabis use. As a more mature adult now I am more aware of the dangers of cannabis use. I've seen my own brother lose a good life because of drugs and the effect it's had on his mental health. Because of this, I look at it so differently. It is hard enough keeping hold of your brain in everyday life let alone adding chemicals to it.

Thank you so much for having this conversation with me. It has been really interesting and some of your answers have really taken me by surprise. Thank you for being honest. 


  1. This was a really interesting post to read. thank you to you and your dad for sharing such personal feelings ! x

  2. I love these posts of yours! So interesting to read, I don't really talk about mental health with my parents so I enjoy reading these and reading some form of what its like to have a child with mental illness, even though each parent is different I feel like reading these makes me feel more prepared for when I will have a big ol chat about it with my parents x