Dads, Depression, Society and Stigma

Father carrying sleeping son


Over something as basic as the fact that his wife, didn’t serve his food the way he wanted, Felix stormed out of the house at 10pm, even though he had just returned from work. All his wife’s pleas fell on deaf ears as, he angrily shoved his feet into the shoes he had moments ago removed.

He removed his tie, threw it on the table, and stormed out of the house. His wife, Feyi, hurriedly picked up her phone and started calling his line. He didn’t pick at first, and when he did, he shouted down the line at her, “Shebi you didn’t want me to eat in the first place?! At least, you now have enough to feed you and your children, leave me alone. All that you need me for is to provide the food, and whatever happens to me thereafter doesn’t matter to you. So, leave me alone!!! Go and eat your food!”

After this rant, Felix disconnected the call and didn’t answer again. Feyi sat down to compose a text, begging her husband to come home and making all sorts of promises. The text message went un-replied. She called, but there was no response. It was with an agitated heart that she sat, and tried to recall their last quarrel, their last 24 hours together, and if she had done something to warrant this reaction from him. Nothing came to mind.

Feyi actually slept off and was awoken by a call that came on her phone. It was her husband, who was calling to ask her to come and open the main gate to their apartment block for him. She checked the clock. It was five minutes before 1am.

Without asking any question, she hurried to open the gate, happy to have her man back home. He brushed past her without a word, and Feyi didn’t mind, but she could smell a whiff of alcohol on him. He wasn’t drunk, but he definitely had been drinking. It was a bit unsettling, because her man wasn’t a drinking man at all.

The same food he had refused to eat and stormed out of the house because it wasn’t ‘appropriate’ for him, was what she met him eating, when she got back into their apartment. She knew better than to say anything, instead she provided him drinking water and retreated to their bedroom.

Thirty minutes later, he was in the bedroom, showered and he was saying, “I want to make love.” Feyi was perplexed; this wasn’t the way her husband behaved at all. He was the one who wanted to sort things out before making love, but not this time. When she attempted to bring up their earlier tiff, he had told her, “Leave it alone” with an angry look in his eyes. So, she let the matter be and submitted herself to the pleasures of his hands.

The next morning, he slept late and left the house without even saying good bye to the children, who had wondered if Daddy didn’t come home the night before.

At this stage, Feyi knew something was so off, so she decided she was going to see him at lunch hour in his office, which was close to the school she taught English literature. They needed to talk.

During the lunch hour, Feyi was at Felix’s office reception, waiting for him to come through. While she waited, one of his colleagues came through and practically heaved a sigh of relief that she saw her. She mentioned that she had been looking for an opportunity to see her for some weeks, and asked to have her number.

She asked if all was well, but the colleague just said it had to do with her husband, but she would like that they discuss the matter off the office premises. So, they exchanged numbers.

Feyi soon saw her husband, who made it obvious that she wasn’t welcome and he saw her off with the excuse that he had plenty work on his table.

On her way out, she decided to call her husband’s colleague. Luckily for her, she was just down the road and still had a few moments to spare. So they met, and her first question was,

“What’s happening to your husband? He’s been behaving strangely for weeks now? Just off…I can’t really put a finger on it. Yesterday, he actually snapped at our boss in front of the entire team. If he hadn’t been here for a while and such a valuable team member, he would have been sacked on the spot, or at least suspended. Instead, he was told to go home for the rest of the day.

You need to talk to him oh! Is there anything happening at home that could be disturbing him? We need to sort it out fast. Felix is too good to just spoil something he had been building for years, because of some personal issues or whatever.”

All of these was news to Feyi but at least, she now knew she wasn’t the only one who noticed he was acting weird. She promised to look into the issue and left.

It took some time, tears, pleas and cajoling, but Felix actually opened up weeks later about feeling overwhelmed and unsatisfied with life. Everyone and everything irritated him; he didn’t want to go to work, he didn’t want to be happy, or be husband or daddy…but he couldn’t give in to the feeling of weakness that he felt, no thanks to societal ideals of manhood.

It wasn’t what Feyi was expecting.

Not knowing who else to turn to, they turned to their Pastor, who listened and prayed along with them, as well as set up a schedule when they could sit and talk about Felix’s feelings, man to man. Their pastor could do this, because he was a trained psychologist who turned a pastor, and thus, was able to read the signs of depression, when faced with one. And Felix’s were classic symptoms.

Felix isn’t alone in feeling like this, available data shows that 30.6% of men have suffered from a period of depression in their lifetime, and the suicide rate among men is about four times higher than among women. While women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to succeed.

For most men, it is not the depression and anxiety that could have been as a result of so many things (like family pressure, work, infertility, etc) that’s the issue…it is admitting to it.

It is so difficult for most men to acknowledge the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, and how all of these symptoms can be exacerbated through work and family stress.

One father and husband, who had been through this phase, acknowledged the fact that, in as much as he loved his wife and children, fatherhood and marriage have been the hardest challenges of his life. “Not that I can’t do it, because I can. But there are going to be moments that are more stressful than others, and without proper help, those moments can push a loving, dedicated father over the edge.”

Already, we have the stigma associated with mental illness in our society. When you pair that with society’s expectations of what is expected of a man, then you have a time bomb; a group of men, who need help but are forced to keep quiet; after all, they are men.

Even though, as society, we have an issue with acknowledging that mental health is an issue, it has become increasingly clear that people need an outlet for their feelings and struggles.

Let’s be our brother and sister’s keeper.



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  1. As true as this is, many still leave in self denial of this fact. I can relate to this story at some points in the course of TTC journey, monents where you just question your abilities and existence. Our society needs to be re-orientated to seeking help as against stigmatization.


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