As the nights draw in and we head into winter after a turbulent and uncertain year for many it feels timely to reflect on the impact of Covid-19 on separated families. Here at DU we’ve seen a noticeable increase in parental alienation and delayed court hearings, and therefore an even greater need for our individualised support.
The Coronavirus Pandemic, either directly or indirectly, has infiltrated almost every aspect of our daily lives throughout 2020, but I want to focus on another public health emergency that hasn’t received the same level of media coverage or political debate: male suicide.
84 men take their lives each week. Men are three times as likely to die by suicide than women, and those under 45 continue to be considered the most at risk of death by suicide.
The challenges in accurately reporting and recording these numbers means that in all likelihood the percentage of young men who have sadly found life intolerable is much, much higher. In their latest report, The Office for National Statistics shows yet another significant increase year on year in the number of deaths. Let’s leave no doubt; this is an epidemic too.
To start treating this disease, we need to understand some of how it spreads. Suicide is extremely complex and there is rarely one single event or factor that leads to someone taking their own life. However, detrimental and outdated stereotypes of masculinity intertwine with societal pressure and expectation, leaving little space for showing and subsequently addressing poor mental health. We know that relationship breakdowns often compound feelings of shame, sadness, failure and anxiety. Add in the debt and loneliness experienced by many single parents and we have a potential recipe for disaster.
The good news is there are preventative treatment options. The simplest, if not easiest, is being given the space to talk and to be heard. Here at DU we facilitate opportunities to allow men to manage and externalise complex emotions via our helpline, our person-centred mentoring service, our monthly support group meeting, our community activities, our part-subsidised counselling service and our onward pastoral care.
But how does talking about our thoughts, feelings and behaviours help? The ability to express, understand and manage our own emotions enables us to better understand and respond to the needs of others. Emotionally literate parents therefore are better equipped to co-parent, to enable their children to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to take their views seriously.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises in article 39 that children who have experienced trauma need special support to help them recover their health, dignity, self-respect and social life. I’d argue that the same applies to adults too, especially when we recognise that divorce or separation is a traumatic life event. The DU wrap-around service built upon the foundations of advice, support and community provides this necessary special support.
If you, or someone you care about is struggling with their mental health because of the impact of relationship breakdown and family separation, let’s see how we can help. We’re here to listen.
International Men’s Day falls on November 19th each year, celebrating the worldwide positive value men bring. Looking back on this year’s theme, ‘Better Health for Men and Boys’ is a reminder to prioritise our health and wellbeing especially when things get tough. Let’s commend the wonderful contributions that good men make to society, community, family and parenting, and invest the time and effort needed to prevent them coming to harm.
When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year.
Mental Health Matters.
Text the word Kent to 85258 or phone 0800 107 0160 available 24/7.
Family Separation Advice, Support, & Community:
Dads Unlimited 01233 680150