Improving Mental Health for Olathe South Dads

Improving Mental Health for Olathe South Dads

By Brody Dorland – Chapter Chair of Olathe South Father’s Club

Let me start by saying that this post may be a bit “heavier” than others you may have read on the Father’s Club blog, but the epidemic of poor mental health in our communities can’t be taken lightly. A quick review of recent statistics tells a shocking tale. Houston, we have a problem.

But let me back up… The Father’s Club organization was originally conceived at Blue Valley High School as a result of yet another student suicide, one of 15 that had taken place within Johnson County schools in the 2017/18 school year.

A group of concerned fathers came together to take action. Since then, the organization has grown to over 25 school chapters, and improving the mental well-being of our kids, FC members, and local communities remains a core objective.

Improving Mental Health for Olathe South Dads

Olathe South Father’s Club Mental Health Training – Feb. 7th, 2024

With suicide being the second leading cause of death for teens in Kansas, I’m proud to be a part of an organization that is putting so much attention on our kids’ well-being. But, our kids aren’t the only ones who are struggling.

A healthy portion of Father’s Club’s new Mental Health & Well-Being Training series focuses on the other high-risk segment of our communities, middle-aged men. Men, in general, take their lives in far greater numbers than women.

Source: CDC Suicide Data & Statistics

Source: CDC Suicide Data & Statistics

And when broken down by other attributes like age and ethnicity, the picture is even more grim for men aged 45 to 54, the highest risk age group.

The Stigma

Unless you’re living under a rock, it’s obvious that awareness of the topic of mental health, and the effort to destigmatize talking about it, has increased dramatically over the last decade. But that doesn’t mean the male population at large is going to change their hardwiring overnight.

We’ve largely been conditioned to be the strong, stoic providers that don’t want to burden our families with our day-to-day traumas. And that’s “traumas” with a little “t”, not a big “T”. Big traumatic events have their obvious impacts on anyone who has experienced them. But “little t” traumas often go undiscussed and can build into a burden that gets too heavy for many middle-aged men to handle.

This situation was really the key focus of our Olathe South Father’s Club Mental Health Training event held on Feb. 7th, 2024.

Improving Mental Health for Olathe South Dads

Todd Milner, Director of Mental Health and Wellness/Board Member

A Few Simple Tools

Since we’re men, we like things simple, and we like tools. Here are three simple tools that were my key takeaways from the training.

  1. Make time to reach out to and engage with the people that are important to you. This obviously includes family, but friends, colleagues, and community members should also be in the mix.
  2. Don’t just ask the typical, “How are you doing?” – Ask it a second time… “How are you REALLY doing?” – This second ask has a jarring way of opening people up to a much deeper conversation about what’s REALLY going on in their world. It also subtly communicates your intentionality, that you really care and are interested in listening.
  3. Don’t hesitate to ask the big question – There will likely come a time when you’re dealing with someone who is obviously struggling. We, as men, need to be prepared to ask, “Have you ever thought about hurting yourself, or someone else?”

Asking this question to someone who is down might be tough. That’s the stigma talking. We need to destigmatize the fear or uneasiness of asking that question, especially when your spidey sense is telling you something is off with someone you care about.

Awareness to Action

I’ll close with this… FC Mental Health trainers Todd Milner and Darrin Wolff did a great job of building our awareness of the severity of the problem and walking us through the fundamentals of QPR. But some of the most impactful parts of our training came from our attendees opening up with stories of things they’ve dealt with in the past, or are currently facing. One such story from trainer Darrin Wolff really hit home.

Improving Mental Health for Olathe South Dads

Darrin Wolff, Mental Health and Wellness Trainer/Board Member

It started with a phone call to a business colleague. Coincidentally, Darrin had just completed his QPR certification days prior. Over the phone, Darrin could tell that his colleague was down and really struggling with something. His recent training gave Darrin the awareness to ask THE question in that moment, despite the natural fear and hesitation. Turns out, his colleague had thought about taking his life just hours before Darrin’s call.

Ditch the stigma. Get over your uneasiness. The lives of those around you are more important than your hesitation, embarrassment, or fear of asking an important question.

To sign up for one of these classes, visit the Father’s Club Events page and find a Mental Health + Wellness class that works with your schedule. To attend you will need to register and a donation of $40 would help defray the cost of the program, but is not required.

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