Are All Dads Created Equal?

Juneteenth and International Father’s Mental Health Day is a natural mix that occurs every year alongside with Father’s Day. International Fathers’ Mental Health Day occurs every year on the Monday after Father’s Day – June 21st this year – to raise global awareness about the need to get better support for dads. Juneteenth commemorates that date—June 19, 1865—when enslaved people of Texas learned slavery had been abolished and that they were free, commemorating the end of slavery in the US. Of course, many years of social and political ups and downs have seen gains as well as steps backward in the effort to ensure that policy and practice support the actual practice of engendering a society in which it’s self-evident to all that “all men are created equal” and have equal rights. Juneteenth’s focus is on the family and the celebration of culture and history, and the achievements of African Americans.

Juneteenth also help brings awareness to the historical and transgenerational trauma that many marginalized groups such as African American fathers, Native American fathers, Latino fathers, Asian fathers, and Jewish fathers face. For example, the Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge killings in Cambodia, the Rwandan genocide, the displacement of American Indians and the enslavement of African Americans. For many fathers, the experience of being part of a marginalized group brings not only personal, but also cultural experiences of being disempowered, segregated, discriminated, or microaggressed. According to APA, “The transgenerational effects are not only psychological, but familial, social, cultural, neurobiological and possibly even genetic as well, the researchers say.”

It is imperative to discuss how fathers from marginalized groups might struggle with fatherhood and how the intergenerational effects of trauma can impact parenthood. As an example, an African American father who identifies with value that it is his job to protect his family might struggle with the realization that bringing a young Black child into this world means there is a possibility that he cannot protect him from the negative effects of discrimination and prejudice that he too has faced. In our clinic, we have worked with a variety of BIPOC dads who struggle greatly with the task of preparing himself and his child for the many barriers they may face including social and institutional racism and prejudice. Reconciling a feeling of powerlessness to protect one’s child with the socialization that men are supposed to be strong and in control can be particularly challenging for fathers from traditionally marginalized groups.

International Father’s Mental Health Day (IFMHD) is an annual event aimed at highlighting the unique mental health strengths and needs fathers have. More specifically, IFMHD’s mission is to improve fathers’ psychological well-being by raising awareness and decreasing stigma. They encourage health care professionals and fathers to share their stories. To share your story or to find more information check out IFMHD on Twitter @dadsmhday and Facebook.  If interested in chatting with the founders of IFMHD, check out PSI Dad’s Monthly Chat with an Expert, facilitated by Daniel Singley and Dad’s Twitter Chat facilitated by Mark Williams, #dadsMHhour, weekly Mondays 3pm Eastern Time.

This June, the celebration of Father’s Day reminds us about the importance and challenges of fatherhood. So, as we celebrate this special day, even if your dad, father, or “old man” is grumpy, distant, or opinionated, remember that you are more important to him than you can imagine. Join us in celebrating and honoring the contributions and sacrifices of all dads out there in the world.

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