Tag Archives: Men and suicide

Sexual Health Awareness Week

September 13th to 19th was Sexual Health Awareness Week – and there are events across the UK promoting both sexual and relationship health education throughout September, some of which you can find here https://www.brook.org.uk/shw/ – and I’d particularly like to guide readers towards the webinar for young men which focusses on consent.

This is an area I work in, which you can learn more about by clicking this link, and which can be very difficult and delicate – supporting those who have been accused of, or are under investigation for, sexual assault or abuse.

I’ve been challenged on occasion for working with this particular client group.  I agree that there is no excusing the acts of sexual offending, on or off line. However, if a person has performed those acts there is, more often than not, significant trauma and/or or abuse in their own history, which impacted upon their personality, their development and their behaviours, and which led to the creation of cognitive distortions and, often times, dissociation, all of which needs to be processed and understood in order to prevent further offending in future.

There are also a number of men I work with – particularly young men – who have been accused of sexual assault when they are innocent. The difficulties of intoxication, blurred boundaries, consent and shame mean that sometimes people can’t clearly remember what happened, or that both parties cross lines they later regret, and sometimes people panic and make an accusation which is unfounded. Many of the clients I work with in this specific area of need have been accused of brutal, devastating things – but the truth of the situation is far more complex, and they are innocent of any crime.

The accusation itself is deeply traumatic, and the process of investigation can have lasting and significant impact not only on the alleged victim, but on the alleged perpetrator – especially when they are innocent, but become tarred with the accusation, and carry that shame.

This is why proper sex and relationship education, especially around consent and the impact of drugs and alcohol on inhibitions and our grasp of reality, memory and morality under their influence, is absolutely vital.

It’s at this time of year when hundreds of thousands of young adults, barely out of childhood, move out into the world as students. Away from home for the first time, free from the constraints of home life and keen to explore every new experience, expand their boundaries and embrace everything student culture brings, combined with meeting new people, in a new place, and bombarded with Fresher’s week party culture, many of these young adults come apart at the seams.

A lot of these young adults find themselves out of control, with free drinks and experimenting with drugs, with blank spaces in their memories of the night before. Many find themselves making decisions they otherwise wouldn’t have made, making enormous mistakes, making fools of themselves or – worse – making victims of themselves or of others.

Some think that universities need to take more responsibility for protecting these new students, limiting the activities in Fresher’s week which focus on party culture – but others say that the students are adults now, and free to make their own choices. Legally they may be adults, but research has evidenced that the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain which controls impulsive and risk-taking behaviours) hasn’t yet developed as people reach early adulthood. This means that these young people quite literally don’t have the area of brain we need to make these decisions and form reasoned behaviours – putting them at far greater risk of endangering themselves or putting themselves and others at risk impulsively.

When you combine a tendency towards risk taking with excessive alcohol or drug consumption, young people are at the most danger of finding themselves in situations in which they can be accused of – or be guilty of – inappropriate or criminal sexual behaviours.

Education is the only way to challenge this – and to help your own young people to avoid those dangers when they are coming into adulthood and stepping out into the world to test their boundaries and explore their independence. Consent and safe sexual intimacy are vitally important messages for young people to understand, and which people still find difficult to discuss as openly as we need to.

When we have campaigns like sexual health awareness week it opens conversations in these vital topics – the signs of sexually transmitted infections (find out more about the most common STIs here https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sexually-transmitted-infections-stis/) enthusiastic consent (find out more about consent here https://www.rainn.org/articles/what-is-consent) and protecting yourself against spiked drinks (find out more here https://theconversation.com/what-is-drink-spiking-how-can-you-know-if-its-happened-to-you-and-how-can-it-be-prevented-160538#:~:text=%E2%80%9CDrink%20spiking%E2%80%9D%20is%20when%20someone,alcohol%20to%20an%20alcoholic%20drink) are some of the most important conversations you should be able to have with and as young adults.

One of the best educational videos I’ve seen around consent is this:

The impact of a sexual assault can be life long, and deeply traumatic, and it can impact every aspect of a person’s life and future relationships. But being accused of sexual assault is also very damaging – and those who have been accused need support as well as the alleged victims – especially when the accusation is unfounded or the truth of the situation is that both parties have been harmed by a mutual mistake.

If you find yourself in that situation I am registered with both ATSAC www.atasc.org.uk (The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity) and StopSo www.stopso.org.uk ) (Specialist Treatment Organisation for Perpetrators and Survivors of Sexual Offending) I provide specialised counselling services for those who have committed – or who might commit – sexual offences, as well as those who have been falsely accused.

I can help, no matter what the truth of the situation, to process the trauma of both your past and this difficult present.

You can contact me through this website, through FacebookLinkedIn or email on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com, or call me on 07849 037095 – you can also message or call via WhatsApp on the same number, and I offer video sessions for those who are still unable to meet in person. I can help – you don’t have to struggle alone, and our work together is completely confidential.

World suicide prevention day

September 10th is world suicide prevention day – and knowing that more people than ever before are struggling with their mental health, as services are being reduced and overwhelmed, it’s more important this year that we have conversations and check in with the people around us who might need more support than usual.

Suicide is a dreadfully difficult topic to raise, and it can feel impossible to let people know that you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, or to support loved ones who are battling them. The impact of losing someone to suicide is enormous, and the difficulty for those who find themselves in that darkest of mindsets is that they genuinely believe that others would be better off if they carry their plans through – which is far from the truth.

It can be very frightening if you have intrusive thoughts which plant that idea, and which build on depression and anxiety, and the stigma of seeking help means that many people feel trapped in the darkness.

It can also be overwhelming trying to support someone who is lost in the dark but who you know just needs the right access to help in order to move past it.

Mind have some great initial suggestions to help those who are struggling: you can find information on their website about how to seek help if you are struggling, and how to support others in their struggle https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helping-someone-else/supporting-someone-who-feels-suicidal/about-suicidal-feelings/

If you are struggling yourself and would like support and counselling to help you process your difficulties and to move past those thoughts I can help. You can contact me through this website, through FacebookLinkedIn or email on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com, or call me on 07849 037095 – you can also message or call via WhatsApp on the same number, and I offer video sessions for those who are still unable to meet in person. I can help – you don’t have to struggle alone, and our work together is completely confidential.

Men and the growing crisis of mental health

Men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women.

There are more billionaire men than women – but there are also more homeless men living rough than women.

There are more men in prison than women.

Men are more likely to receive harsh punishments for crimes than women.

The gaps between good and bad lives, good and bad experiences, good and bad support, are vast; we know that there’s a disparity between men and women – but few people speak about the enormous differences in life experience between men in different cultural and economic worlds.

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I wrote recently about toxic masculinity, and how it’s responsible for so many male abuse victims suffering in silence and being killed by their abusers.

It also means that men are more likely to die from treatable medical issues – because seeking medical help is seen as ‘weak’ and men are taunted for being ‘more dramatic’ with illnesses like ‘man flu’ (in reality, men are significantly more likely to die of flu than women) and will ignore symptoms of more serious conditions because it’s seen as a failing of masculinity to be worried, to visit a doctor, to express concern and seek help.

“Man up.”

“Boys don’t cry.”

Men’s health – and especially men’s mental health – is being failed by a system that isn’t offering intervention and support before the issue becomes life threatening. Statistics show that men are far more likely to die of things like cancer, infections, viruses, heart disease and diabetes – and that their lifestyles and weight can impact these far more commonly than women might experience. Men’s mortality is far higher than that of women, at every age – but the most worrying among these statistics by far is the number of men who are dying by suicide.

Often this is associated to younger men – but middle-aged and retired men are also far more likely to die of suicide than any natural causes or illnesses, and far more likely than women to die by suicide at every age.

Men are suffering with crippling, life threatening mental health issues because the medical system isn’t geared towards helping them, their workplaces make no allowances for their mental health and emotional needs, the pressures of providing for a family and maintaining a façade of strength among their peers are overwhelming, and admitting that they are struggling against these pressures is seen as a weakness, so they are ridiculed or dismissed.

This is leaving men across the UK, from every kind of background, every social environment, every income bracket, every level of our society with no support, with no access to the right kind of help, no avenue for seeking emotional and mental health support, medication, counselling, justice for any harm or abuse that they face.

The Men’s Health Forum are petitioning Government to invest more in a Men’s Health Strategy – something designed to improve and promote services tailored to the specific needs of men. Covid has hugely impacted the NHS, the available support, stretching an already thinly spread system in which so many men were already slipping through the gaps between their needs and the available services.

When men are ridiculed, dismissed as weak or brushed off for having any kind of health need – whether that’s physical or mental – it shows a dangerous and deadly culture of fronting any issue with ignorance, secrecy and fear. The endemic issue of toxic masculinity, of pushing men to maintain the illusion of strength and stability, of making them feel afraid to ask for help and acknowledge when they are struggling, is costing far too many lives.

It’s time that those voices are heard, and that men are supported to seek the help that they need to survive any mental or physical health crisis; that they are given fair and universal access to mental health support, to lifestyle and physical health benefits that they are currently lacking, and that the mentality of ‘man up’ is challenged so often, and so loudly, that it becomes the shameful view, and men are finally able to speak openly about the challenges that they face and access appropriate support in order to break that cycle of toxicity.

Martin Tod, CEO of the Men’s Health Forum, has shared this video which details the worrying statistics that men are facing, and which is the front of their campaign,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZD7pU7pZNZk

and you can sign the petition supporting the cause here

https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/petition-mens-health-strategy?utm_source=MHF+newsletters&utm_campaign=cc28e67fbf-APPG_Video_7_17_2021_20_8&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b8d405abed-cc28e67fbf-444204473&mc_cid=cc28e67fbf&mc_eid=2e66ec0ef9

It’s time that Government realised that their health support needs to meet the very different and specific needs of both men and women – and, in fact, everyone who falls between those two categories in the spectrum of gender and sex. Binary and blanket health care is outdated, ineffective and failing our population, and it’s time for things to change and to evolve with the existing needs of people who rely on that system for support.

Mental Health word cloud on a white background.

I work with many men, including those who have fallen into the trap of repeating toxic cycles, who were victims of abuse in their formative years, who were punished for being vulnerable, and who are now living with the impact of significant mental health needs. These cycles can be broken, and even those who are living with very complex pain and trauma can find a pathway to leave that hurt behind, and to avoid weaponizing it to protect themselves from potential future harm.

If you feel that you would benefit from somewhere safe to speak, to process your past hurts, to deal with the stress and pressure of your current life, to prepare for any upcoming challenges that you are worrying about, and you think you need support with any mental health concerns, contact me – you don’t need to battle your demons alone. You can contact me through this website, through FacebookLinkedIn or email on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com, or call me on 07849 037095 – you can also message or call via WhatsApp on the same number, and I offer video sessions for those who are still unable to meet in person. to speak about what support you think you’d benefit from.

Domestic abuse and the abuse of men – and the plague of toxic masculinity

 Across the UK reports of domestic abuse have increased significantly. The police saw a 7% increase in violent domestic abuse reports, Victim Support report a 12% increase in referrals for domestic abuse cases, and the National Domestic Abuse Helpline saw a very concerning 65% increase in calls in just the first months of lockdown. These figures have continued to grow throughout the ongoing pandemic, and domestic abuse is a cause of enormous concern as resources continue to be overwhelmed and people remain in abusive relationships and situations that are reaching boiling point under the ongoing pressures of the pandemic.

The media has been drawing a lot of attention to these statistics, and attempting to find support for resources which offer help to victims. The main focus of this help has been for women and children, who have been victimised by their abusive partners and fathers.

Much of the media coverage, however, doesn’t make much referral to resources for men who are suffering abuse, and who are being victimised in domestic abuse situations.

Men often find it much harder than women to escape abuse. They also find it harder to admit, or even to accept, that they are in an abusive relationship. Public response to men being abused is far less sympathetic, and can often make light or even ridicule those who are trying to ask for help, but it is just as dangerous for a man who is being abused as it is for a female victim.

Men in abusive relationships are at high risk of physical harm and even death, and especially so because the public response, and that of many services, doesn’t take their abuse as seriously, which means that men are ashamed or embarrassed to seek help, therefore find themselves trapped for longer without access to support and resources which could protect them from their abuser.

The legal repercussions for women who abuse men are also far less significant, which means that they are less protected from their abuser finding them again, or returning to the abusive relationship because their abuser gets off lightly and is still free to continue contacting, and therefore abusing, their victim.

One very public case shown regularly in the media in recent years was 22 year old Alex Skeel from Bedfordshire, who was found ‘days from death’ by police after neighbours reported a disturbance.  His then partner, Jordan Worth, admitted grievous bodily harm and coercive, controlling behaviour, after isolating Alex from his family and friends, and assaulting him with knives, boiling water and a hot iron, among other incidents. Jordan was jailed for seven and a half years for the abuse, and Alex is now very active as a public speaker, regularly appearing in the media, campaigning to raise awareness and support for men who are abused.

Sickeningly, a significant amount of the public response to the news stories, including comments on news stories and posts on Twitter, have seen people ridiculing Alex, making jokes about the abuse he suffered, and taunting him for publicly speaking about his experiences.

Which is precisely why he continues to do it. To raise awareness of how terrifying living with abuse is, and how incredibly dangerous it is for authorities and services to see it as ‘less significant’ and thus less serious or damaging than a man abusing a woman.

I wrote recently about the life-altering impact of shame, and how it can cause deep psychological issues – you can read that article here – and one thing many men who have been abused name as a lasting impact is shame; shame that they were abused, shame that they ‘were weak’ or that they are somehow less of a man.

This is not true. It simply isn’t. The mentality that ‘a real man’ couldn’t be abused, or that it’s somehow funny, is wholly inaccurate and damaging.

Toxic masculinity – the way that men are taught from a very young age that they should be tough, that they should not be soft or gentle, that they should be hard and unemotional, is poisonous.

Toxic masculinity, and the ingrained belief that men should never struggle with their emotional needs or mental health, that men should never cry, not talk about their feelings, should be physically and mentally tougher than women, and that their needs are insignificant or a sign of weakness and being somehow ‘lesser’, is precisely why more men are finding themselves in abusive relationships.

It is also why it is harder for them to seek, and receive, help. It is why the statistics for suicide are significantly higher in men. Because they have no way of processing, recovering from or surviving pain, trauma and mental ill health.

In fact; suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK, and figures are increasing.

Suicide is directly linked to shame – and shame is a direct result of toxic masculinity. That toxicity is seeing more men die from abuse, or from suicide, and both could be avoided if people simply felt more able to speak honestly about their experiences, and receive support.

If you are struggling with shame, or have been the victim of abuse – either in the past or in your current life – please don’t continue to carry that pain alone. I can help, and am very experienced in working with men who have lived with abuse; you can contact me through this website, through FacebookLinkedIn or email on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com, or call me on 07849 037095 – you can also message or call via WhatsApp on the same number, and I offer video sessions for those who are still unable to meet in person.

You can also visit Mankind for more information and support for male victims of abuse https://www.mankind.org.uk/

Men’s Mental Health Week – June 14th-20th

I talk about mental health a lot – for obvious reasons! It isn’t something I campaign to open more conversations about simply because it’s my job – it’s a job I got into because I’m passionate about helping people to find support, about removing the stigma and shame still so prevalent in society around mental health issues, and about enabling those with the quietest voices to be heard.

One trend that is still apparent is that men find it harder than women to admit they are struggling, to ask for – and receive – help. The weight of toxic masculinity – the societal pressure for men to be strong, brave and stoic, to align mental health concerns with weakness or failure – means that men are far more likely to struggle alone.

This struggling alone means that men are still the highest statistic for suicide rates. Male suicide rates have risen by almost 10% in the last three years, with a significant increase through 2020 and 2021. There is a clear link between financial pressure and mental health concerns, with men expected to provide income for families, and the economic crisis brought by Covid-19 has seen those suicide rates skyrocketing – and mental health issues, particularly in adult males, recorded at the highest rate in history.

It is a crisis, and Government are still avoiding responding with adequate funding and support for the communities most impacted by these statistics, and the men in those communities who are desperate for help, for support, and for access to mental health treatments and counselling which would quite literally save lives.

Another shocking statistic which has leapt to the highest rate on record is the number of domestic abuse cases; situations where, due to lockdown, low employment, financial crisis and being trapped at home together have created a pressure oven of overwhelm, anger and aggression. The number of men physically attacking their partners and families has increased dramatically, and – again – the support and interventions which could prevent those incidents, and protect the victims, simply can’t keep up with the demand.

Another very clear connection and correlation is seen between men’s mental health and domestic abuse; better access to support and mental health interventions for men – and for the male children of abusers – would see drastic reduction in abusive incidents, breaking the cycle and allowing those involved to re-wire their emotional responses, providing safe spaces and solutions to their crisis. Those who commit these crimes have almost always been victims of abuse themselves, and are perpetuating a toxic pattern of abuse that can be prevented if they could access mental health support before they reach crisis, or use their own trauma as a weapon against others.

June 14th to 20th is National Men’s Mental Health Awareness Week – and there are a number of very important campaigns to raise awareness for these needs. To have these difficult conversations. To raise funds for the bodies and resources which support men’s mental health and provide active interventions and treatment for men’s mental health struggles.

The Men’s Mental Health Forum are one such body, and one which I actively support in my work with StopSo  – and they are running the ‘Can Do’ Campaign, raising vital awareness and funds, and recruiting Men’s Mental Health Champions to be the voice of their work; follow this link to find out more about the Can Do Campaign.

If you are struggling, if you have concerns about your mental health, if you have experienced trauma or difficulties and need a safe place to speak about them, to process them, and to leave your darker moments behind so that you can embrace your future happier, more confident and with resources to protect against future mental health crisis, please do get in touch. You can contact me through this website, through FacebookLinkedIn or email on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com, or call me on 07849 037095 – you can also message or call via WhatsApp on the same number, and I offer video sessions for those who are still unable to meet in person. I can help – you don’t have to struggle alone, and our work together is completely confidential.