Tag Archives: substance abuse

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.

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/

United Nations/WHO World Drug Day – June 26th

 

 

There has been immense focus in the media on the fears around the Covid-19 virus and the immediate impact of people being isolated in their homes – but today, with the United Nations/WHO World Drug Day awareness campaign, I want to talk a little about the unseen impact that this enforced isolation and ‘lockdown’ have been having in tens of thousands of homes across the country.

Whilst the media is talking about the challenges of working from home, or home-schooling children, of getting groceries or being lonely without family to visit, most stories have glossed over the realities of what many people are turning to, to ‘cope’ with these pressures.

Behind closed doors, drug and alcohol use have increased on an enormous scale – and those who were battling with sobriety may have fallen off the wagon. People are slipping into dependence on substances which numb them to the pressure and anxiety of the situation we are living in, and that dependence is impacting their lives in other ways.

With increased drug and alcohol use we see huge pressure within homes and relationships – families are fighting, couples are hurting, children are witnessing and being subjected to abuses, and as the virus continues to spread the services which would usually be in place to protect these vulnerable victims of addiction and substance abuse simply can’t provide the support that is needed.

The UK is in crisis – with mental health services more stretched than ever, and experts predicting that the lasting impact of the pandemic on the nation’s mental health will be significant – and those turning to drugs and alcohol are already in need of help that this stretched service may never be able to provide.

Though the statistics for deaths caused directly by the Coronavirus are slowing, experts believe that the lockdown designed to prevent the spread of disease may cause more deaths than the virus itself.

Negative coping methods – alcohol, drugs, tobacco – are seeing the emergence of new addictive behaviours, and increased numbers of those displaying these behaviours – which is very concerning, and likely to continue increasing.

A phenomenon which is being called “Deaths of despair” – deaths from overdoses, alcohol related incidents and illnesses, suicide and abuse – are skyrocketing alongside deaths caused directly by the Coronavirus.

It’s vital that access to mental health care is improved and that people are able to receive the help and support that they need without the long waiting lists and barriers that people are seeing at the moment.

Though the mental health provisions in the UK have been under pressure for many years, with reductions in budgets and access being limited in many areas, the impact of the current situation will be seen across all health and social services for years to come, and is causing significant harm both to those dealing with drug and addiction issues, and to their families – and this crisis absolutely must be faced and managed, before it leads to more avoidable deaths.

I am an experienced specialist, and have worked with those living with addiction and substance issues – and I know that it’s a complex and multi-faceted situation which needs to be carefully managed, with support to face the pain and trauma behind the addictive behaviours, as well as those behaviours themselves.

I am here to help – and available to offer counselling support to anyone who is struggling with any drug or substance abuse, or who is impacted by the addictive behaviours of others. I can offer video calls to give counselling whilst you are unable to meet face to face, and to support you even during the continued lockdown restrictions.

 

 

Don’t suffer alone – call me today for some support.

You can contact me through this website, on my Facebook page, on my phone number – 07849 037 095 – either as a phone call or via WhatsApp video – or email me on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com