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Thomas Lynch
3rd November 2021 • My Family, Mental Illness, and Me • Bespoken Media
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Thomas Lynch, co-founder of Edinburgh parenting support charity Dads Rock, shares stories with Pamela about life with his dad Tam, a steel-fixer who suffered bouts of severe depression.

If you would like to support children and young people living with parental mental illness, please donate to Our Time here: https://www.justgiving.com/ourtimeuk. To find out more about Our Time, please visit www.ourtime.org.uk/.


If you are affected by anything you hear in this podcast, there are people you can talk to for support. You can contact your GP, www.samaritans.org or www.childline.org.uk. If you are a young person, you could also talk to a teacher or other trusted adult.

Transcripts

Dr Pamela Jenkins: This is My Family, Mental Illness... and Me.

[Intro music]

My name is Pamela Jenkins and I’m a researcher at the Mental Health Foundation. My mum, Irene, lived with a mental illness. There were voices only she could hear and she could quickly switch from feeling very high to very low. No one ever talked about it with me when I was young, even though I knew my mum was often unwell. When I was in my 20s, that’s when a psychiatrist told me that my mum had schizoaffective disorder. Sadly, I lost her quite recently to Covid-19 but even though she’s gone, her mental health will always be a huge part of my life.

In each of these podcasts, I’ll speak to someone else whose parent has or had a mental illness. In the UK, there are at least three million children of parents with mental illness. If you’re one, it’s really important that you know you’re not alone.

My Family, Mental Illness... and Me is a podcast series from the charity Our Time with support from the Mental Health Foundation. Our Time champions and supports children of parents with mental illness and their families. We’ve put links to more information in the show notes.

It’s really exciting to get started on this podcast series. We’ve got so many great conversations lined up and it’s truly wonderful to finally be able to share them with you. I’m not straying too far from home for this first chat and hearing from a founder of a brilliant Scottish charity set up to help dads, kids and families.

Thomas Lynch: My name is Thomas Lynch. I founded and work for a charity in Edinburgh called Dads Rock. We’re here to improve outcomes for children and we do that through working with dads and families with a range of services on a one-to-one basis and also online.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Hi, Thomas. Thank you so much for doing this. Where would you like to start? I’m going to open up the floor to you and let you start where you would like with your own experience.

Thomas Lynch: Well, my dad had severe mental illness and died because of his mental illness. Yeah, that’s had a huge impact on my life. He had two main periods of being really ill, one of which happened when I was a young teenager and the second happened when I was in my late 30s or early 40s. I was amazed at how quickly it came on and how it kind of crept up on us both times and kind of took us by surprise. When I was a teenager, obviously both my mum and dad were a lot younger, and they were in a different place and possibly more able to cope with it but then with the second episode that he had, if you like, both my parents were retired and found it really hard to cope with and deal with.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Were you a teenager the first time your dad had his first incidence of his mental illness? Was that the first time you remember it?

Thomas Lynch: Yeah, I was a young teenager from what I remember. I think I was maybe 13 or 14. My memory of it now, looking back, is that he’d been working away in construction during the week and coming back at the weekend. We didn’t see him that much because of that and we didn’t have much interaction with him because of him working away. What sort of transpired and what he talked about afterwards was just the stress of the job. It was a big construction piece of a very important building and he found it quite stressful. Working in construction, he was working with people who weren’t looking after him and didn’t care about that kind of stuff and so it was quite a stressful situation. My family, being the family that they are, don’t do well at being honest and being open about stuff and so it was all quite hidden and secret. I’ve got an older brother and my mum and they kept me away from it, I think, because they wanted to protect me but I just ended up feeling annoyed, confused and didn’t know what was going on because nobody would tell me.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: But you knew something was happening?

Thomas Lynch: Yeah, I knew he wasn’t well. I could see it myself in conversations and the way he was acting but I didn’t know how seriously ill he was. I mean very quickly he was sectioned. Again, this is all stuff that I was told later and that my mum and my brother took him to the doctor because he’d had suicidal thoughts. They felt he was a risk and so he was sectioned. It was then a process of going to see him at the psychiatric hospital in Edinburgh, and going into the ward and how scary that was to see him in there with other people who weren’t well.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Did your mum and your brother tell you why he was in the hospital at that point? When you went to the hospital, did you know what type of hospital it was?

Thomas Lynch: I knew that he wasn’t well and I knew that he wasn’t well in the head. That’s probably as much as they told me. They said he was a bit sad and they probably used the word ‘depressed’ but I probably didn’t really understand what it meant but unfortunately, he had to have electroconvulsive therapy. That was pretty horrendous. I remember going in to see him one time after he’d had it and it was not long after he’d had it. It was just horrible to see your dad like that and to see somebody you loved like that because he just seemed blank and not there. Although he was conscious, he didn’t seem like he was in the room and that was pretty hard to see. If you fast forward to the second episode he had where, again, he was back in the same psychiatric hospital and, again, very unwell, I remember him talking about seeing people in the trees outside the hospital. I had a three or four-year-old at the time and we would take him and, again, it felt like history repeating but I just wanted to be as honest as possible with my four-year-old; age-appropriate but to tell him what was wrong with Grandad.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: What did you say to him? How did you explain it to him?

Thomas Lynch: Yeah, that’s a good question. Do you know what? [Laughter] I probably used some of the same words my mum used, didn’t I? I probably talked about him being ‘a bit sad, and a bit depressed, and that he was here to get help’... even though I knew that actually, he wasn’t getting any better. He had a medical condition as well. He had two consultants; a psychiatric one and a medical or physical one and they both said that they couldn’t do anything else for him. He was in his late 60s – he was 69 – and I just felt like the NHS had given up on him. The psychiatric doctor was saying, ‘We’ve done as much as we can do. We need to wait for the medication to work,’ which it wasn’t and the medical doctor was saying, ‘He’s not strong enough for an operation.’ Yeah, it was pretty hard. My dad was a very traditional Scottish father and of the old generation that worked really hard and didn’t talk a lot. He didn’t talk about himself or his feelings certainly. I think that he felt he had finished work and so what else was there to live for. It feels a bit harsh obviously saying that but sometimes I feel like he did just physically and mentally give up. As much as I knew that the mental illness was a chemical imbalance and I knew there was a logical imbalance to it, I still can’t help but feel that way when I look back on it.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: As though there was a feeling of an element of choice in the matter and that sense, like you say, of not fighting anymore?

Thomas Lynch: Yeah, and, again, it’s hard to see anybody that you love not fighting as hard as you would want them to fight and not being able to have that conversation to say to them, ‘Look, we need you. My mum needs you and we want you to be here for the grandchildren.’ But it was too late by then for him because he was in such a dark place.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: When you were younger or latterly, did he have an awareness of his mental health do you think?

Thomas Lynch: Yeah, the first time he had an episode when I was a teenager, the electroconvulsive therapy, the drugs did work, the drugs did help and he did get better, he spoke about it very briefly. I remember one conversation and as quite often happened with my dad or with my family, it was in the car. We were driving somewhere and I was a passenger. I think, again, my dad used that as a sort of easier way to speak to someone without looking at them because he had to drive [laughter]. I remember him speaking about it then. I can’t remember if I brought it up or if he did but that was the only time we ever spoke about him being unwell and we were really careful. He made a good friend in the hospital the first time around and the guy that he became friends with did die by suicide. For a short period of time, I think that guy really helped him because he was somebody who had been there and somebody who knew what my dad had gone through. My dad, unfortunately, was the sort of guy who didn’t want to talk about a lot of things and, therefore, just clammed up instead of talking about it.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: How did that make you feel when you were a young teenager? Do you remember how you felt at that time?

Thomas Lynch: Yeah, not pleased about it [laughter] because I just wanted some answers. I wanted people to talk. I wanted people to just be honest about it and there was nothing coming from my family. I definitely think it’s had an impact as to where I currently am and where I ended up. I ended up, after school, doing a science degree which involved a bit of psychology and I ended up volunteering for Edinburgh Samaritans.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Oh wow!

Thomas Lynch: So I was a Samaritan volunteer for about nine years in Edinburgh and I absolutely know that part of the reason for me wanting to do that was because I wanted to know more and I wanted to protect myself because I did have this fear... and I’ll be honest, I still probably do have a bit of a fear that it could happen to me. Whether it’s right or wrong but there’s that whole thing of it being passed down through the generations of poor mental health, so I think I wanted to sort of protect myself.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Yeah, and we know that’s not necessarily the case but I can completely relate because it’s such a natural worry to have when you’ve experienced and witnessed poor mental health in a parent. It’s a very natural place for your own mind to go but it’s not necessarily the case at all.

Thomas Lynch: No, and there are times when you know that, aren’t there? There are times when the logic kicks in and you think, ‘Just because... it doesn’t mean that it will happen to you.’ We know that our lifestyles are quite different from our parents and certainly, our upbringing is different from our parents but, at the same time, there’s that sort of niggling doubt and that fear at the back of my mind.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Yeah, and then as a parent, I don’t know about you but certainly, there’s a whole other level to that for me now that I’m a parent and I’ve got my two boys. I worry about their mental health and what if it’s something that will impact on them, even if it doesn’t directly impact on my own mental health? What if it passes to them? Again, it’s a fear, isn’t it? It’s a fear that sort of lives with you.

Thomas Lynch: Yeah, I think that it’s really good that there are a lot of people in Scotland talking about infant mental health and talking about the mental health of babies which is amazing. I think that’s definitely the way that we need to go. I’ve got a lot of hope for the younger generation. I think with a lot of the conversations they have in school, they talk about mental health, whether it’s overt or a bit more discreet but the term resilience is quite a common term now in schools. That certainly wasn’t something that we talked about in my school. He’s talked about the fact that he’s been in well-being classes and if somebody has upset somebody else, they have to talk about it and work through it together which sounds very therapeutic in the simple fact that people are being asked to face up to things and talk about friendships still being important even if you’ve upset somebody.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Did you ever speak about it with your friends at school? Were you open about your dad’s mental health when he was going through that?

Thomas Lynch: No, not at school. I think, as usual, I was certainly at that stage where I think that if I had spoken about it at school, it would have been used as something negative, so I think I was probably scared of mentioning it. It’s been interesting when I’ve spoken to school friends in later years and caught up with them and they’ll tell you stories of what happened in their family life and how you just didn’t see it. It wasn’t spoken about and you weren’t aware. I think, as a parent, it’s a really hard balance to, again, be open with your kids but not expose them to too much.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Yeah, and to create anxiety where it isn’t necessary. It’s difficult though because sometimes not speaking can create as much anxiety as you’ve experienced. You knew something was not right or that something was going on and that had the effect of making you feel potentially as anxious as if you knew. Being in the dark isn’t always a good thing and certainly, that was my experience as well. It wasn’t great.

Thomas Lynch: No, and not having somewhere to go. It might have almost been okay if my family had said, ‘This is not for you,’ or ‘You don’t need to know about this,’ but they gave me a book, a leaflet or whatever [laughter] and said, ‘Here is something that is where you can channel this.’ I had to just do that myself and I decided to do that myself because I wanted to understand. I’m not saying, obviously, that I have all the answers and it’s amazing but I wanted to feel like I had some tools and some armoury that would help if I would come across something.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: You mean in terms of if it were to happen to you or to learn about what was going on with your dad?

Thomas Lynch: A bit of both but selfishly, yes, to sort of look after my own mental health but also just to be more aware of it in general for everybody and to try and understand what had possibly happened to my dad. I don’t think we do really look back... it sounds a bit harsh to talk about reviewing how somebody died, or why somebody died, or what happened but it doesn’t feel like we do that enough to understand and to learn from it.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Do you talk about it now as a family? Do you talk about it more?

Thomas Lynch: We talk about his death. We talk about him. We talk about how he would be reacting to stuff that’s going on. If I ever talk about his actual mental illness, my mum just wants to blame other people. She wants to blame too much medication, or not enough medication, or not the right medication which is just where she’s at.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: How does that make you feel?

Thomas Lynch: Oh, a bit sad because I just think that’s wasted energy because I think the NHS did what they could and they did what they felt was right.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: What was your dad’s diagnosis? You mentioned depression at the beginning. Was that his official diagnosis?

Thomas Lynch: Acute psychosis. It was something like that but because he then had a medical condition... he had cancer and because he then had that, it was almost like the mental health stuff was just put to one side because he, all of a sudden, had terminal cancer. It kind of almost didn’t matter. As much as I would have loved it if he’d been able to come back before he passed away and he’d been able to really be present and be with his family, he wasn’t really and that was hard. It was a whole year of him not really being the person that he was, in a psychiatric hospital, and not wanting to leave the hospital because he was so paranoid about his safety and people being out there to harm him.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: That’s hard.

Thomas Lynch: It’s quite hard to logically think about that and to rationalise that when somebody says to you, ‘It’s not safe outside. There are people there. There are people in the trees. I see people and they’re going to hurt us.’ It’s quite hard to discuss that and talk about that because it’s his reality. It’s what he can see and what’s going on for him. You know it’s not, and it’s not your reality, and it’s quite hard to compromise.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Yeah, and it can be frustrating as well. With my mum, it was teddy bears. She had teddy bears that spoke to her and she spoke to them. In the end, I just had to accept that, like you say, they’re part of their reality and you can’t make it better. I think that’s one of the really hard things. You feel like if you love them enough and you’re there enough, you can make it better and you can’t... or if you rationalise enough with them. In the end, you need to just accept and it’s hard.

Thomas Lynch: Because we know that if it was a broken leg or something else, it would just take time and we could all hold on and that they would get through the other side but when it comes to your head, there’s a lot that we don’t know and a lot that we don’t understand. Just as you were talking there, and, again, I don’t know the signs behind it but it does make me almost think of a little bit of dementia...

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Yes! Yes, that’s interesting. That’s interesting that you say that because I often wondered later on if there was a bit of a crossover. I’m not a medical doctor but it presents in a broadly similar way sometimes with psychosis and hallucinations. It’s difficult to untangle.

Thomas Lynch: There was some chat about that with my dad. There was some chat about whether he had a little bit of dementia but, again, they said it would be too hard to assess because of everything else going on but it does make you wonder about that, doesn’t it? From a simplistic point of view, it’s almost like the same part of the brain or something that’s involved and going on with hallucinations and with the memory. He knew who we were and he remembered us and his grandson. He liked seeing us when he was in the hospital but you couldn’t have a conversation about him getting better because it just wasn’t that level of conversation. That still frustrates and puzzles me when I think about that. Again, you know it’s not logical but my brain says I should have been able to get through to him. We should have been able to convince him that there were good things here and that would have helped him. [Laughter] I know that’s not how it works but there’s still that whole thing of wanting to save someone and wanting to help them get better. That’s the interesting thing as well, I think, about being a Samaritan volunteer and when I was doing that role, you wanted people to get better and you wanted people to get help but you also knew that, actually, some people didn’t get better and that some people died either through natural causes or because they died by suicide. That’s really hard. I think, as human beings, it’s really hard to let go.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Yeah, and it’s a hard mindset to imagine if you’ve never experienced it. I think what’s interesting as well is just this idea that an illness that presents as psychosis is talked about less often than depression or anxiety. Not knowing what the diagnosis is is not an uncommon experience for children of parents with mental illness. It sounds strange to say but they’re euphemistically described as somehow more acceptable forms of mental illness but when it starts to become more severe or acute, it’s maybe not spoken about so much. That was certainly my experience anyway. Nobody told me that it was schizoaffective order but I heard the word ‘depression’ sometimes. It’s just interesting that it doesn’t seem okay to talk about that so much.

Thomas Lynch: Which is strange, isn’t it, when we have so many labels and we have so many words for things but we choose not to use them?

Dr Pamela Jenkins: I wonder if it’s got something to do with the associations that are made, if you have psychosis, with the way that that presents or if you have schizophrenic symptoms; the associations that people make are often very negative. The way that that’s presented can be very derogatory in the media, so there’s a huge stigma around it.

Thomas Lynch: Yeah, because I think if somebody had said to me that my dad had schizoid or schizophrenic tendencies, I would have been quite scared about that because I think I had a perception, mostly driven by the media, as to what that means.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: It’s a really difficult one and certainly, I felt a lot of embarrassment which I now feel quite bad about. I wish I could have had a conversation with my younger self and said, ‘Be proud of your mum,’ and whilst I loved her and we were very close, I was embarrassed when she spoke to herself on the bus or at school. I wouldn’t want her to come to certain things because I was worried that she would do that. It’s so much easier now to look back on the things that I look back on and think, ‘I wish I could change that.’ It’s difficult.

Thomas Lynch: But I guess I would say that most children are embarrassed by their parents anyway...

Dr Pamela Jenkins: That’s true [laughter].

Thomas Lynch: ...whether they have poor mental health or not.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: That’s very true.

Thomas Lynch: As the kids get older, the last thing they want is their parents to speak or be present [laughter].

Dr Pamela Jenkins: That is true.

Thomas Lynch: It’s the stigma, isn’t it? Again, my hope is that there is a lot more understanding now and a lot more openness. People talk about things a lot better now and understand more, so I think there’s a lot less name-calling, to a certain degree, and a lot more acceptance.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Yeah, absolutely. How do you remember your dad? When you think back and you think about your dad, is his depression the first thing that springs to mind or his mental illness? What do you think of?

Thomas Lynch: Oh, definitely not. I think his mental health is how he died. His cancer is how he died. They’re both entwined. But when I think about him or if you ask me about him, I don’t think about that. It’s part of him and it happened but I don’t think about that. I think about how strong he was and that’s really interesting... well, just even saying that word. Again, it’s all entwined, isn’t it? Yeah, I think about how strong he was, how stupid he was and how silly he was [laughter]. He used to do this really strange sort of sucking in with his teeth noise which was kind of like a sarcastic noise that he used to do. It’s just silly stuff that he used to do with his grandson, our son. So if I think about him and if somebody asks me about him, I think about the fact that he and my mum were together for so long and were such a lovely couple. They weren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Nobody is but they were married for such a long period of time, 40 years or something...

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Wow!

Thomas Lynch: ...so I think about that sort of stuff if I think about him and the fact that, although we now have two sons and he never met our second son, he met our first son and they had a relationship. I’m grateful for all of that stuff [laughter] and I’m lucky. I say I’m blessed that we had the family that we had and it was as good as it was.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: It’s amazing what an impact it can have and how it lingers. I know that your father had the different episodes. In between times, was he okay?

Thomas Lynch: Yeah, in between times and, again, I think that’s why it kind of shocked us and surprised us when it happened the second time because he seemed absolutely on the level and it seemed that everything was okay. All of a sudden, something happened and he went downhill really quickly and he was back in the psychiatric hospital really, really quickly. I think some of it was also because they were both pensioners and my mum couldn’t cope with the medication that she was responsible for giving him and she couldn’t cope with being responsible for him. I look back now and I think she was put in a position where it wasn’t fair and quite quickly, as a family, we had to decide that the hospital was the best thing for him because it would also be the best thing for my mum because he was starting to get dangerous... not towards her but just unpredictable, I guess. We didn’t know which way it was going to go and we believed, at the time, that he was only going into hospital for a short period, as much as there was that fear again. Yeah, to answer your question, definitely, in between times, he felt like it was his old self back but when he got sick again and became unwell with his mental health... again, it’s weird because it just kind of creeps up on you. It’s small things and then all of a sudden, you think, ‘Oh, it’s quite big now.’ The second time it happened, I initially remember just discounting it and thinking, ‘Oh, it’s just forgetfulness,’ or ‘It’s just what happens when you get old.’ But soon, actually, that didn’t feel like it should and he wasn’t acting in the way that he normally acted.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Did it throw you right back to when you were a young teenager?

Thomas Lynch: Yeah.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Did you recall what happened then?

Thomas Lynch: Yeah, it did make me think of that and it made me also think of the ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) and how horrible that was for him and how horrible it was for us. My thought was, ‘Is he going to have to go through all that again? Are we going to have to go through all that again?’ Effectively, quite quickly, the NHS said that wasn’t on the cards.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Sorry to talk about the ECT again... when do you recall knowing that it was ECT? Did they tell you at the time or did you just see how he was afterwards?

Thomas Lynch: I think my family must have spoken about it. As clichéd as it is, my only reference is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Yes, me too! [Laughter] Me too!

Thomas Lynch: I’ve seen it in different movies and different programmes later on and whenever I see a scene that involves ECT or that sort of treatment, I find it really hard to watch and really hard to accept. I knew, even back then as a teenager, it wasn’t like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I knew that it wouldn’t be like Nurse Ratched and all the others but that was my only reference. It’s a weird thing because I think I was a bit relieved. As a family, it felt like nobody knew why ECT worked but it was definitely mentioned within the family because I think they knew that I was going to notice that he was not going to be like how he normally was and possibly also because I asked, ‘How is going to get better?’ or ‘What are they doing for him to get better?’

Dr Pamela Jenkins: It’s interesting that they would tell you about that, because I think you said at the beginning that they said, ‘Dad is not well in the head,’ and then give details of the treatment. It leaves so much to the imagination for a child.

Thomas Lynch: Yeah, and as much as part of me says I don’t know if I’d ever want to see a room where that happens, there’s got to be a better way of talking about these things now and explaining these things for children because there certainly wasn’t anything then. I can’t imagine there was actually that much for my mum or my brother. There was probably just more of a conversation about it.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: I think so much focuses on the patient. I think it’s a bit better now but I think part of the reason for this podcast is to highlight that children of these parents and caregivers are overlooked in terms of what they need and their requirements to support their own mental health at a time that can be very stressful and create a lot of anxiety for them. Did it have any impact on your mental health?

Thomas Lynch: Yeah, I think it can’t not have an impact on your mental health but it’s almost made me feel like I’m always on the lookout for not feeling like how I should. If I think about it now, I’m definitely a little bit older than he was when he had his first episode which is not something I’ve really thought about but, again, it doesn’t make any medical sense but you do think about these stupid marks in time and the differences in your life and his life. When you have a parent who dies, you kind of learn that... yes, of course, they’re dead and you know they’re dead but they’re still with us if you want them to be. You remember all the good things and all the stupid things [laughter] that they did and who they were. I’ve always been concerned about making sure that we honour him and that we remember him. I still think that’s how you do it; by keeping them with you and keeping them alive inside you. I think that’s just, again, human nature and that as our children get older, we kind of pass on some of the attributes from our parents; some of the good stuff and probably some of the bad stuff as well. I think we’ve, as a society, learnt a lot about mental health. I think it’s great to see so many people talking about it. I think it’s brilliant to see so many men talking about it and a lot of people say, ‘Men still don’t talk,’ and I think they do. They just need the space and they need the time and they will talk but there are lots of great organisations that have popped up and are popping up, so I’m really hopeful about mental health. I think there’s still so much more research, money and everything that needs throwing at it but you’ve got to have hope that things are getting better for future generations and that we’re learning.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: And Dads Rock is a huge part of that. You founded the charity to support dads and to help them in their role as fathers. Do you think there’s a link there with the relationship with your own dad?

Thomas Lynch: Oh, yeah, and I think having a child is such a sort of pivotal moment in your life. It’s such a stressful, exciting moment in your life [laughter]. It throws up everything when you’re either just about to have a child or when you have a child, doesn’t it? You start to think about your own parents, your own upbringing and the sort of parent you want to be. It’s all connected and I think the good thing is that you just want to be more honest. As I said earlier, if I think about my dad, I remember him being so strong and mostly physically strong and I do think he was strong of spirit but I never saw him cry. I never saw him be really vulnerable until the mental health made him vulnerable. I still struggle with that as a man of two boys. I still struggle with being vulnerable in front of my children but I know that there’s power in that. I know that there’s strength in that. I sound like that Little Mix song Power [laughter] but I do know that there’s value in that and that has taken a long time to learn, as an adult and as a person, that there’s value in vulnerability. You can learn a lot from it and other people can too. I think my dad probably had two or three emotions, if you’d asked him [laughter], and that’s probably all the emotions that he could name and that would be his range [laughter]. Again, I’m not saying I’m perfect but that’s where I see the hope that we have to hold on to; the ability to express ourselves.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: How much of your experience and your relationship with your dad is in Dads Rock for you? Would Dads Rock be, do you think, without the experience that you’ve had?

Thomas Lynch: I don’t know. He died just as it was kind of starting, so he knew it was a thing. He probably didn’t really understand it. He probably would have dismissed it a little bit because he was the sort of person who would never tell you that he was proud of you but he’d be proud of you. You were just supposed to know [laughter] and read his mind. I like to think that he would be proud but...

Dr Pamela Jenkins: I bet he would be.

Thomas Lynch: ...it was a different generation and they did things very differently and they treated each other very differently. As I said, he worked in construction which is a very sort of male, macho environment. I remember he took me one day and I absolutely hated it [laughter]. It was just the worst... I was so embarrassed.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Not for me! [Laughter]

Thomas Lynch: There were all these men sitting about, yeah.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: Not talking about their feelings.

Thomas Lynch: Not talking about their feelings but just being hugely inappropriate [laughter]. It was just not for me. As I said, I think we’ve come a long way in mental health in this country but we’ve still a long, long way to go but there’s hope and there’s a positivity that we’re getting there.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: There is and it’s been so lovely to talk to you about this, Thomas. Thank you. It can’t be easy. Honestly, it’s...

Thomas Lynch: It’s nice therapy, isn’t it?

Dr Pamela Jenkins: ...hard listening to it. It’s therapy. I don’t know what I thought about how it would be but listening is very emotional and it does make you reflect on your own experience. It’s so refreshing to hear somebody else’s experience. It really is. I’ve never really spoken to anybody about it and not even in my own family.

Thomas Lynch: And we don’t really in our family and it’s wrong, isn’t it? As I said, his mental health wasn’t who he was but it was definitely a part of him and we don’t really talk about it in the same way we would talk about the positive stuff.

Dr Pamela Jenkins: This is why I think the sharing is so important. Like you say, it creates that community and it makes you feel like you’re not alone. This is the first and most extensive conversation – only conversation – I’ve had with somebody else with a parent with mental illness in my life. I’ve never done this before and I don’t know why. I don’t know why. So thank you so much again, honestly.

Thomas Lynch: You’re welcome. Good luck, Pamela, and I look forward to listening to them all when they’re ready.

[Outro music]

Dr Pamela Jenkins: A huge thank you to Thomas Lynch from Edinburgh charity Dads Rock for coming to chat with me today. Give Dads Rock a follow on social media. They are @dadsrockorg on Twitter and on Instagram.

My Family, Mental Illness... and Me is a podcast from Our Time with support from the Mental Health Foundation.

ct your GP, the Samaritans on:

Thank you so much for being with us today. Subscribe to our feed so you get future episodes automatically downloaded and if you know someone who’d benefit from hearing these stories we’re sharing, please let them know we’re here. That’s really important. We really want people to know that they’re not alone. This is a Bespoken Media production with music and sound design by Joel Cox. See you next time.

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