The aim of this study was to explore how men manage their mental and physical wellbeing during the difficulty and stress of family dissolution. Interviews with 26 fathers were undertaken to discuss the ways in which fathers responded to the crisis, what help they sought if any, and the ways in which they coped with distress ensuing from the family breakdown. Participants were recruited through the new Australian Family Relationship Centres. Although men are generally considered high-risk at the time of family breakdown, the study found that the fathers exercised resourcefulness and flexibility in management of their wellbeing. This was demonstrated by the ways in which they handled their emotions and aspects of the problem, and by the seeking of both informational and emotional help through family members and friends. Significantly, it was assistance from family and experienced others, and not from professional sources, that was key to fathers being able to balance the stress of the ongoing conflict with their well-being. Government and non-government services were perceived by many fathers as difficult to access. Taking a non-deficit perspective on men’s help-seeking behaviour has revealed the extent to which men can monitor and manage their personal resources to deal with adversity. The findings also suggest that there are specific barriers to fathers’ access to services. Additionally, the study highlights the effectiveness of strong family connections and mentors as resources for mental health prevention and intervention. Implications for family services are discussed.
Advances in Mental Health Vol. 9, Issue 1, p. 49-62