A little more conversation: father-son chats critical in mental health battle

OPEN UP: Headspace is encouraging fathers to have more conversations with their sons in an effort to fight mental health issues among boys.
OPEN UP: Headspace is encouraging fathers to have more conversations with their sons in an effort to fight mental health issues among boys.

Dads are being encouraged to talk with their sons in the latest campaign by an Orange mental health service to assist young people.

According to Headspace, only 13 per cent of young men ask for help while grappling with serious mental health issues.

The Fathers and Sons campaign aims to improve that.

Around 42 per cent of people who present to Orange headspace are male. Of those, 18 per cent are there of their own volition.

Marathon Health runs Orange’s headspace service and child and adolescent mental health manager Peter Rohr said there are encouraging signs.

“This certainly shows that young men are recognising when there is a problem,” Mr Rohr said.

“With further influence and family support, this figure can rise.”

Mr Rohr said fathers simply talking to their sons was an important step.

“It’s of course important to pay attention to the behaviours, moods, comments and habits of young people in our lives,” Mr Rohr said.

“But no matter how well we observe these things, it’s still important to talk with a young person.

“We should not underestimate the power of a simple conversation in reassuring young people that they are not alone, particularly from people like fathers.”

In its first year of operation Orange headspace assisted 506 people, an average of more than 40 new people each month.

The key, according to Mr Rohr, was providing a supportive environment in which young men and women could talk and the strategies used by professionals could help fathers when conversing with their sons.

“Staying calm is important, as is being available without being intrusive,” he said.

“Being interested in what is happening in their lives without focusing on things that you think are a problem.

“Take their feelings seriously and make sure to choose a good time and place to talk about sensitive subjects.

“Young people themselves sometimes have strong views on what they think is happening.”

Mr Rohr said fathers and sons might not always agree, but listening was vital.

“If they are confused, unsure or scared, knowing that you’re there for them is one of the most powerful things you can do as a father,” he said.

Further information and advice is available at www.headspace.org.au.