I am a 41-year-old father of three. I faced many challenges growing up of bullying, mental and physical health issues and social isolation. I received some help in my early adulthood to various degrees where I believed the doctors had done an okay job. However, I ended up losing faith in everything from the system to the people.
I learnt how to survive by cutting myself off from nearly everything and everyone. I spent most of my adult life trying to help others where I could so they never ended up in my situation, but I never realised how I could make that much of a difference until lately.
A couple of years ago I received the best help from somewhere I wasn’t expecting… A new project was set up to promote the importance of fathers’ wellbeing and the impact it has on their kids. This project was called Salford Dadz. They put me in direct contact with other fathers who had been through their own struggles, some of which were similar to mine. Here I found that actually talking about and sharing lived experiences helped me to bring some clarity to my life. I discovered that within myself that I could change and that the tools needed to do this were within me and these other fathers all along. I had heard about these various support services in the past but they always seemed out of reach for me because there was no connection.
Salford Dadz has allowed me to sit down and talk with someone who ‘has been there and got the t-shirt’. On reflection, I understand that when you are at rock bottom it is hard to see any hope. But talking to someone who has also been at rock bottom too can help change your perspective as they have a similar lived experience. This can benefit you more than talking to a professional where there is not that type of connection or understanding.
Moving forward, I feel this kind of support should not be offered as a replacement for the system, but should be a big part of the wider support system. Some of this change in society has started to happen already. I hope to be able to help this change happen and that it can continue to lead me and others to a better future. The biggest change I have seen was within myself. This change began when I learnt to use my lived experiences as strengths not weaknesses.