Almost every study on parents with mental illness centres on mothers

And that’s been OK with men. ?Because we don’t really talk about feeling weak and vulnerable.

Jonathon Ashe is in his first year of clinical psychology at the University of Waikato and he wants to speak to dads with an acute mental illness. He said there is no current research in New Zealand that explores a father’s experience with mental illness.

“I’m interested in looking at the positive outcomes of what these men do well and how they cope in the face of adversity,” Ashe said.

“The research done with fathers, which hasn’t been a lot, tends to specifically be in relation to men’s experiences with mental illness,” Ashe said.

“There are only three studies that I’m currently aware of, none based in New Zealand, that focus on the risk and vulnerabilities mental illness puts upon the children or looks at the children’s perspectives.”

Ashe said mental illness is a particular area of interest for him and as a dad, he knows it’s important for children to have a good bond with both parents.


“Predominantly, I’m looking for the fathers that do manage to sustain or maintain relationships with their children while they have a serious mental illness, whether it be schizophrenia, bipolar or a major mood affective disorder.”

The research will be part of Ashe’s master’s degree and he hopes to speak with 15 to 20 fathers from Waikato or Auckland.

“It may be that they have a full-time relationship with the mum or they may only see their children once a fortnight. But as long as they’re always involved with their kids and their relationship is successful or they perceive it as successful, then that’s who I hope to speak with.

“This is an opportunity for those fathers who manage to sustain those relationships to help the people who are in similar positions to themselves who aren’t able to do that. And what I want to do is find out what works for these dads and generalise it for other fathers or mothers, because a lot of it is generalisable across the sexes.”

Ashe said there could be many reasons why some fathers have more successful relationships than others.

“That could be higher education levels, support by extended family or wh?nau. It could be involvement in sports groups, church groups or the nature of the relationships between the co-parents.

“Talking about your experiences with somebody else can help develop an insight into what’s going on for yourself. The benefits of having those open communications with your family and with your children can impact positively on yourself and for your kids.”

The research interviews will take between 60 to 90 minutes. If you are interested in being involved, or would like more information, email Jonathon Ashe at [email protected]

I have personally found that my children have been infinitely forgiving during the bad years. ?They are so amazingly flexible. ?But they were scared of anger outbursts that could come at any time and with little warning.

Now that phase is behind us, the bond and love between us is stronger, and the trust in me is now absolute.

Mental illness is a chronic condition. ?In the beginning you think of it as being fixable, rather than something you need to learn to live with. ?And by internalising it, you deny the people around you the signals they need.

When I’m unexpectedly irritable, and thank goodness it doesn’t happen that much any more, I now tell my family I’m grumpy for no reason, and just to leave me to it for a bit until I feel better. ?That works well, and as a result I don’t get trapped into any angry outbursts.

The relationship with?my sons has never been better.

Kids are amazing. They accept all sort of hardships and shrug it off as if it is nothing. ?Just be their Dad. ?That’s all they want.


– Pete