Simple interventions could make a huge impact on separated dads at risk of suicide, says AMHF CEO
“The problems that separated fathers face are structural and not individual,” Australian Men’s Australian Forum CEO Glen Poole says in the latest Dads In Distress Dads Alive podcast.
“We need to have better systems in place. We need to have a better cultural understanding that separated dads are often a vulnerable group.”
Poole said simple interventions could make a huge, life-saving difference to separated dads.
“Sometimes we try and think of really big, massive solutions that are required to fix difficult, social problems when actually, if more people in the system, in our community, in our lives, were looking out for us and giving us little nudges in the right direction, it would help more people find a healthier path through life’s challenges.”
Relaying his own experience with separation in 1999 when he was living in the UK, Poole identified two small ‘nudges’ that had diverted him from a path of destruction.
One was the support he received from a mate.
“I really needed to talk,” says Poole. “He kept me sane, maybe he kept me alive. He didn’t try to fix me, he didn’t try to tell me what to do. He just listened as I tried to make sense of it.”
Poole later learned how to talk without needing to drink a bottle of vodka as a primer.
The other defining moment was when a doctor asked Glen to write down how much he was drinking in a week. It was a small intervention, with huge repercussions.
“If we’re not aware of the problem at a system level and cultural level, people don’t know to make those nudges,” Poole says in the interview.
“In terms of early intervention, we need to get better at recognising that one of the most vulnerable groups of men are separated dads. The only way you will get proper early intervention is if every part of our community accepts this is a problem, and more people are nudging dads into support.”
Dads in Distress is a peer-to-peer network that gives separated dads free support that can be life-saving. Poole says it is one of the best examples around the world of a project that supports dads, and is largely run by other dads in similar, or the same circumstances.
“Being in a room with other dads in the same situation is a huge weight off your shoulders. Someone gets it.
“I wish I’d had immediate access to a group like Dads in Distress to give me support and guidance.”
Poole notes that not all separated fathers are in a perilous situation. Many have on-going relationships with their children, establish new relationships and report life satisfaction.
“But for a significant minority of separated dads there is a huge impact, and often an on-going impact,” he says.
Separation impacts social wellbeing, physical health and a dad’s mental health.
“We know it’s a high risk for suicide. We know from detailed research that there is an impact on financial wellbeing, and often a significant impact on the quality of relationships that separated dads have with their children.
“If we don’t understand and acknowledge these problems at a social level, it makes it less likely that we’re primed at a community level to support dads.
“We need our leaders to acknowledge that separated dads are doing it tough. What they really want to do is be the best dad they can, irrespective of what their family circumstances are and it’s good for all of us that we help them make that transition.”
“If we don’t acknowledge there is a problem, we don’t go looking for solutions.