Children's book Sometimes Daddy Cries meant to destigmatize parents' mental health issues
Todd Rennebohm said he was inspired after seeing his kids struggle with his mental illness
An Indian Head, Sask., man is hoping to normalize mental illness and teach children it's OK for parents to have a rough day.
Todd Rennebohm has written and self-published a children's book titled Sometimes Daddy Cries. The story follows a young boy whose dad gets sad some days. Then the father gets even sadder and has to be taken to the hospital.
"The whole time the kid is comparing it to having a stomach ache. And the kid had been in the hospital for a stomach ache," Rennebohm said. "So he's always comparing it to physical ailments."
Comparing mental illness to physical pain helps children understand and empathize, he said. Rennebohm said he does the same with his own children.
"If I have a couple of days where I need to lay in bed, it's just like having a migraine or a stomach ache," he said.
Rennebohm was inspired to write the story just before beginning an addiction treatment program.
"I was drinking and smoking marijuana in my garage and feeling sorry for myself," Rennebohm said. "At that point in my life, I had already survived a suicide attempt and had been to the psych ward a couple of times and I was kind of certain to spiral all over again."
He said he doesn't exactly remember where the idea to write the book came from.
"I was crying while I was doing it," he said. "About two hours later that night, I ended up being in the hospital. I woke up my wife because I was scared I was going to do some self harm again. And ever since then, I've been sober and on the up and up."
His own children didn't understand too much about his mental health at the time when he was at his lowest, he said. Rennebohm said it was like his family walked around on eggshells and it made him distant from his sons.
"When I was going through my troubles, I had a lot of guilt issues … I think it was because we didn't really educate them," Rennebohm said.
"So I thought, you know, this might help other people with their kids to kind of soften that blow if something does ever happen with their parents."
Rennebohm said his own personal journey is on a positive path. He is sober, works at the same addiction treatment facility that helped him four years ago and has a strong relationship with his children.
"Every day has been a little bit better."
The book is available on Amazon.
With files from The Morning Edition