Tag Archives: mental ill health

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/

Shame, and the impact it has on our wellbeing.

In a world of 24-hour news and celebrity culture, and an environment of constant sharing, with social media showcasing the minutia of everyday life for us to compare ourselves, share ourselves and open our lives to strangers on a global scale, shame is an emotion that we are beginning to see impacting more and more people on an increasingly significant scale.

Shame in itself isn’t necessarily harmful; shame is a natural response, which informs us that something is not quite right.  Without this felt sense, we would have little opportunity to avoid, change or repair whatever it is that ‘feels’ wrong, and we would be more vulnerable to harm or mistakes. But what happens when you are faced with, or feeling, more shame than you are prepared for, or more than you can cope with?

Shame is linked to a feeling deep within our self. A sense of not being ‘good enough’ or of letting ourselves – or worse, others – down. A belief that we are failures, or burdens on those around us, and that we deserve any negative experiences we may have.

Shame evokes a desire to withdraw into ourselves, to diminish our voice, gaze and stature.  Perhaps this is familiar to you, or indeed you may have noticed this behaviour in others?

The commonality of dropping our head and avoiding eye contact is prevalent amongst those who feel embarrassed or ashamed, and can give rise to the physical ‘Flight’ response kicking in, where the individual feels the urge to leave the room and/or situation, or to avoid social environments altogether, becoming isolated and creating a vacuum in which negative thoughts can breed.

In the presence of other people shame can run amok, ensuring that its damaging effects are profoundly felt by the afflicted individual, who cannot help but compare and contrast, and find themselves wanting, or re-hash and re-live a mistake which they feel cannot be overcome.

If this is a feeling or situation you are familiar with, I have some good news:

Because shame thrives on the presence of other people, in order to proffer the profound impact upon an individual, it is necessary to heal shame by interacting with other people. Don’t panic; the caveat for this is that those interactions are controlled by you, the individual feeling shame, and the first interaction which can begin your process of healing is with a therapist or counsellor.

When shame is understood, and acknowledged, by honest conversations with a trusted friend or a therapist, it eases and shrinks away. Shining a light on the feeling, and digging into the root of it, gives a new perspective, and shows shame for the toxic weight it brings.

Shame is powerful, and can have a significant impact on our lives and our day to day activities. In order to diminish its power over us, we need to engage with it, explore its origin and myth bust it, in a supportive and collaborative way that gives you a sense of mastery over such destructive emotions and feelings.

PATIENCE, SUPPORT AND SELF ACCEPTANCE are important when mastering your conscious and subconscious feelings and thoughts around the shame you experience. Shame isn’t a feeling we give to ourselves, it usually comes from external sources, from the way we think we should behave, think or feel, because of the environment which has shaped us.

Happily, those ‘should’ feelings don’t belong to us either – and we can process how we position ourselves in our own minds, in the expectations others have put on our lives, and in the actions we continue to take in order to gain control and acceptance over our own choices. Mastery of our emotional self, mastery over our needs and our identity.

The more you are open to talking about shame, the more power you harness; your old feelings of shame then become powerless over you (this is a FACT!) and the confidence that you feel when you win the battle for control over your self-worth against shame is life changing.

If you are living with shame, weighed down by it, and want to step towards self-acceptance and freedom, 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 read more about the impact that trauma has on a person, and on their ability to form healthy relationships, much of which comes entangled with a sense of shame and low self-worth, in my last article – just click here to read about trauma bonding and PTSD

I can help – you don’t have to struggle alone, and our work together is completely confidential.

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.

Should you disclose Mental Health issues at work?

Statistics are showing that more people than ever before are struggling with their mental health at the moment. The pressures of a global pandemic, lockdowns lifting and lowering, employment uncertain and family members lost or sick, it’s all taken a toll.

That toll sees people battling depression, anxiety, an increase in eating disorders or behavioural issues, the usual balance between our routines and our emotional needs disrupted with an uncertain end point.

It’s been traumatic, and challenging, and it’s no surprise that so many are battling their demons – some for the first time, others in a way they’d perhaps already worked hard to beat, and the slide back into a darker frame of mind can feel like a failure when you’ve been doing so well for so long.

Paper man surrounded by Coronavirus and economy news headlines

There is no shame in battling your mental health – there is no shame in admitting that you need support, and in reaching out for it. In taking time for yourself and your own needs, rather than constantly being on the go or giving your energy to others around you.

Or, rather, there should be no shame. But for many people, there still is. The stigma around mental health issues is still prevalent in many environments – and the place where that’s the biggest concern is in the workplace.

Though employers legally can’t challenge or dismiss their staff for needing mental health support, many still feel that disclosing mental health issues will impact their future in the role, or risk them losing their position, prevent their path to promotion or negatively impact the potential they had with the company.

You aren’t legally obliged to disclose any mental health considerations to your employer – but, if you do find that you are discriminated against at a later date, it is important to have evidence that they knew and have used that knowledge to negatively impact your employment.

The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance have created a very useful pros and cons document for whether or not you should disclose any mental health issues to employers; I know that it is deeply personal, and something you can only decide when you weigh up your own personal circumstances.

No matter what those circumstances are, the more of us who speak openly, honestly and powerfully about our experiences, the challenges we face and any mental health issues which have impacted our lives, the easier it becomes to do so. This means we benefit ourselves, able to relieve some of the pressure, and gain support from those around us. It also means we help others who may be struggling alone to see that it is more common than they thought, and that they can access and deserve help and support too.

That help and support comes in many forms – and your employer can, and should, help you to access some of them, whether through their own internal support or by allowing you to work more flexibly so that you can access support more readily.

If you are seeking one-to-one support, and you are looking for a Counsellor who can help you to work through the challenges you’re currently facing, or moving beyond past trauma or mental health concerns which are limiting your life today, please reach out to me; I can help you to leave that weight behind, and step into your best future with confidence.

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.

 

Action for Happiness – Joyful June

Each month I share the Action for Happiness calendar, each full of suggestions for ways to improve your mental health and lift your mood in small, simple ways each day.

 

June is all about joy – and about finding it, creating it, sharing it and experiencing it each day, even if it’s a difficult one, in small ways.

Joy has been elusive for many people in the past year – so take a moment each time you feel overwhelmed or challenged, and indulge yourself in the little things that bring you happiness.

 

Burnout and self care

Many people find that their mental health and mood dip through winter. The darker days and nights, less hours of light, gloomy weather and isolation can have a huge impact on our wellbeing.

 This year that impact is worse than usual, as so many of us have been stressed or isolated with lockdown, restricted time with family and friends, and the pressure of working through a pandemic or of losing work because of the virus.

 Self-care is never the first priority for many of us, but it’s more important than ever before that we find ways to care for our own needs, to protect our health and emotional wellbeing, but also to enable us to have reserves to continue supporting others.

What I am seeing a lot of, from clients, friends, family, from everyone to some extent – is burnout.

What is burnout?

 Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. (From HelpGuide)

In other words, burnout is what happens when you have been fighting for months to stay safe and keep your loved ones safe, to work in unusual circumstances, to pay bills with reduced income, to feed your family through a pandemic, to maintain happiness and health whilst home-schooling, working, social distancing, being isolated, separated from support networks – burnout is what happens when you live through a pandemic, economic collapse, political upheaval and the constant threat of harm.

Burnout is what you’re very likely experiencing when you stare at your to-do list and have no idea where or how to start, and are kicking yourself for not being able to achieve as much as usual.

This is normal – at least, it’s normal as a response to this very far from normal year you’ve lived through. It’s common, it’s expected, and it’s okay. You aren’t alone, and you need to reframe your expectations.

Managing burnout.

 The first thing to accept is that this is not normal – this year, this experience. So expecting a normal level of productivity, of activity, and of output is simply impossible.

Your body and mind aren’t in a productive mode; you aren’t in a place where creativity, action and future planning are really possible.

When you are under the kind of stress and pressure that we have all been experiencing, your mind is in defence mode. Your body and brain are finding ways to protect you, to survive, and to simply get through the day – not to achieve anything beyond simply surviving.

When your subconscious mind is working so hard on survival, there is little energy left for creativity or productivity. When your body is in survival mode, any focus you may ordinarily have for training, exercising, working towards goals, is almost impossible to tap into; your body doesn’t have the energy to fight, survive and keep you going and commit to new goals or targets – so if you’ve struggled to work towards any long-term health or exercise goals this year, that’s okay; it’s normal. Your body and mind simply can’t right now. So don’t be angry with yourself, or disappointed; forgive yourself for where you are, due to a situation that is completely outside of your control, and focus instead on what you can control; forgiveness, kindness and survival.

Steps to take

 Recognise and acknowledge the signs

  • Set smaller goals
  • Structure and routine in your day
  • Wind-down time
  • Self-care
  • Support network
  • Ask for help

 Recognise and acknowledge

 We are all great at berating ourselves and criticising ourselves for what we fail to achieve – but when did you last listen to your body, and acknowledge where you are and how you feel right now?

 Acknowledging the signs of burnout is the first and most important step in overcoming it.

Set smaller goals

 So perhaps you haven’t achieved what you dreamed of this year, but look at what you have achieved – and focus on the small wins. You have been subjected to enormous and very complex changes, completely outside of your control. The pandemic has robbed you of many freedoms and opportunities – but it hasn’t completely stalled every thing you are and do. So list the things you’ve achieved – and count even the smallest things as a success. Getting out of bed and dressed is the most you can do sometimes – so take that little win.

Structure and routine

 If you have lost your work or the activities you usually participate in, it’s easy to slip into a rut and to live in your pyjamas, with no shape to your day and time.

Create some structure; set an alarm and try to stick to a regular sleeping and waking schedule, get washed and dressed, keep meals at the same times each day, and start to add in more things over time – getting out for a walk, calling someone, applying for jobs, reading a book, anything which you feel is a proactive and positive use of time.

Wind down time

 Without structure and with less need to leave the house many fall into a habit of distraction; watching tv or films, gaming, scrolling through social media – but often these mindless blue screen activities keep your subconscious brain stimulated and agitated – so ensure that you get some time each day – at least a couple of hours – away from these devices, reading or outdoors in nature, meditating or finding another way to relax.

Self Care

 Personal hygiene, time doing something you enjoy, soaking in the bath, exercising, grooming, styling your hair, picking out an activity which you love to do – whatever it is that give you small moments of joy and which gives your mind and body some healthy nourishment is vital. Even small things – washing your hair, changing your bedding, replacing one pair of pyjamas with a fresh clean set – can make you feel better in small ways.

Support Network

 The isolation of lockdown and social distancing has made many of us very lonely. It’s a painful and frightening experience, so please do take time to reach out to your support network. Call family and friends, make time to video call when you can, and where you’re able to get out of your house to meet others again.

Ask for help

 None of us need to be alone. Nobody needs to fight on, without help and support, struggling and battling burnout and overwhelm; you deserve to be supported and find help, no matter what has happened in your life, and no matter how lost you feel.

If you think that having someone you can speak with in confidence could help, and you would like support in processing the trauma and stress you’ve experienced – whether that’s as a direct result of the pandemic or there’s other experiences you are struggling with – call me to arrange a 10 minute assessment call, where we can have a chat about what you need and whether I’m the right person to help you.

Call me on 07749 499783 or email amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com or you can message me via Facebook or this website. You can also speak to me on video call via WhatsApp, which is how most of my sessions have been carried out through the pandemic. You don’t need to struggle alone any more.

World Mental Health Awareness.

If you were on any social networks, or saw any news, on Thursday October 10th, you can’t have missed the wash of images, stories and personal moments being shared to raise awareness for World Mental Health Day.

Of all the awareness days, this is the one that gives me the most mixed of feelings.

Of course, being a professional counsellor, working with those who have vulnerabilities, have survived difficult situations and events, who continue to face challenges with bravery and with support, I think it’s vital to have an open and honest dialogue about mental health.

I see, and am happy to see, the changes in how openly mental health, crises of mental health, and the depression and anxiety conditions which impact so many lives are being spoken about. We have celebrity – and even Royal – voices telling their own stories, making speaking about these issues more commonplace, making it easier for people to admit when they are struggling, and erasing the stigma and shame that always used to be paired with mental ill health.

These changes are superb to witness – and to be a part of. To be a service provider, helping those who come forward to say “I am not ok, and I need help” – but equally, I know that speaking openly on social media may not be helpful for some. It may open their vulnerabilities to more dangers, to strangers and trolls, to those who take advantage, and those who dismiss their pain and challenges. This can make a person who is already struggling yet more vulnerable, putting them at risk.

I also know that speaking more openly about the mental health crisis the country is currently facing won’t improve the availability of crisis services, which are already stretched far beyond their capabilities in every county throughout the UK.

Crisis counselling services have huge waiting lists, funding to provide more availability, to train and provide experience and support for those who can, and want to, help, and ongoing support beyond the initial mental health crisis an individual might suffer is scant, and a tidal wave of people speaking openly on social media may be helping to remove the stigma and embarrassment around speaking about our challenges – but it does little to provide actionable solutions which can help people in crisis.

I don’t know what the solution is, and I know that – as the country lurches towards yet more uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the political imbalances in the UK – the issues of the NHS, mental health provision and funding for supporting the most vulnerable in our society is going to remain a problem that we don’t know how to solve.

I may not be able to help every person in crisis, but I and the kind, beautiful, compassionate people I have the pleasure of working alongside know that every moment we commit to supporting those who are battling their own struggles eases some of their personal crisis – and every person we help is incredibly important to me, and to my colleagues.

If you are struggling, if you are looking for a safe space to speak and process your fears, anxieties and events which have impacted your life, I can help. Call me or contact me with your name and contact information, and I will respond as soon as possible – and we can arrange a time where you can tell me more about yourself, and discuss how I can help you with your challenges.