Guest Blog: That Time of Year
Recognising that the festive season is both an exciting time for some and a difficult time for others, our Clinical Lead (Tom) has took time out to write this special blog
The annual arrival of Christmas and New Year celebrations clearly brings great joy, and merriment for many, as the festive atmosphere and culture of Christmas descends with the commercial aplomb familiar to us all for this time of year. However, there are also a considerable amount of people within society for whom the festive season represents less of a positive event, and more of a potentially painful and incredibly difficult time.
Religious ideology aside, the spirit of Christmas has always placed considerable emphasis on the nature of family, and relationships. In Charles Dickens festive tale A Christmas Carol, the life lessons of the stories protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge famously revolve around his being forced to confront how his miserly actions directly affect those around him, whilst placing his lack of relationships and empathy and compassion for others front and centre in the story. From adverts on television, to billboard posters, radio advertisements to the images emblazoned on the sides of buses within city centres, the reminder that Christmas is a time for family, as well as giving and sharing with those closest to us is relentlessly hammered into the public’s consciousness every year.
There are of course multitudes of people without either families or close relationships to speak of and it is these individuals that are most at risk of feeling extremely lonely and isolated at Christmas… more so than any other time of year. According to UK mental health statistics, an astonishing 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem over the course of a year, with men three times more likely than women to die by suicide, and suicide representing the most common cause of death in men under 35 years of age (Mental health Foundation, 2015).
Such statistics are frightening to say the least and merely compound the need for more sensitivity, compassion and understanding during Christmas and New Year for the many who are annually subjected to feeling increasingly lonely and isolated while the rest of society appear to revel in family celebrations, and festive cheer.
For male survivors of sexual abuse, rape and/or sexual exploitation, this time of year can represent a raft of potential difficulties to navigate, due to being fraught with frequent reminders of their painful legacy issues as a result of their sexual trauma. For the male survivor whose childhood sexual abuse took place within the family, at the hands of family members for example, there can be little relief at such a time when the idealised, fairy tale family unit is portrayed as the essence of Christmas.
For those men who are still suffering alone and in silence, the emphasis on relationships and intimacy at Christmas, may often bring with it increased pressure, and feelings of alienation and inadequacy as they struggle to uphold a mask of pretence for those around them.
Relationship difficulties represent one of the most commonly reported symptoms for men who have been sexually traumatised. Trust and intimacy are two of the most fundamental components of any healthy relationship and so for those male survivors whose ability to trust and be intimate with others has been severely compromised due to what’s happened to them, their ability to develop and maintain loving relationships with themselves and others naturally suffers as a direct result of their traumatic experiences. With intense feelings of loneliness, isolation, shame and guilt also extremely common reported symptoms of sexual abuse, this once again reminds us of how potentially difficult this time of year is for male survivors of sexual abuse, who represent merely one of the many marginalised groups of our society, that can feel even more so during this time.
When taking all of these aforementioned factors into account, it will hopefully give some idea of the kinds of struggles that many male survivors will undoubtedly face this Christmas.
For those male survivors who may be reading this, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you all that there is support available and that you really don’t need to suffer alone and in silence.
Online support can be found using www.malesurvivor.org which is a USA based site for male survivors.
Closer to home, there are a range of services available to offer 24 hour listening support, and advice for men who find this time of year particularly painful, which are available to all those in crisis.
The Sanctuary – Self Help Services run a crisis helpline on 0300 003 7029. This service is available to all who are in crisis and who’re struggling to cope with anxiety attacks, depression and/or suicidal thoughts.
The Samaritans have 24 hour confidential telephone support helpline available by calling 116 123 (Freephone)
Something that I would like to say to any men that are potentially reading this, and able to relate to any of the topics raised in this piece, is that you are by definition incredible!
The fact that you’re reading this and if you’re relating in any way to what’s been written, have clearly survived your own incredibly painful and difficult times, is in itself evidence of that. I feel literally privileged that you’ve read my piece.
Please take care of yourselves as best you can over this Christmas period and reach out and access support when you need to. Here at Survivors Manchester we’re not going to wish you a necessarily ‘Merry Christmas’, but we are going to wish you an absolutely brilliant New Year in 2016! Make it YOUR year, make it count and reach out and access some support that’s available to assist you in doing so. We’re here to help!
So, from the all of the team here at Survivors Manchester… HAPPY NEW YEAR!!