PTSD from divorce?

I heard an interesting analogy today, regarding the constant struggle for fathers to keep hold of their sons. It went something along the lines of this:

“Imagine your home has just been bombed and you are lucky enough to have saved your child. After a short mourning period for the life you knew, you have to move on. In a divorce, the child won’t have the life it would have had if it had both mum and a dad, your life will forever be changed but you need to focus on giving them the best possible life you can with what you have”

I thought this analogy described the trauma of divorce and custody battles flawlessly. You no longer have the right to go into your marital home, whether you’ve had it for 10 minutes or 10 years. You no longer can simply play with your child when you wish. Your lover and best friend has decided you are not a fit father and you now have to play by their rules. It’s no surprise that men who have suffered traumatic, sudden divorces – whether there are children involved or not – can suffer from symptoms similar to PTSD.

According to mentalhealthy.com, Divorce Stress Syndrome can give you the same side effects as PTSD[1]. Loose women presenter Andrea McLean has recently suffered a panic attack just minutes before she was due to appear live on TV. This panic attack happened because she was struggling to cope with the emotional aftermath of her marriage breakdown. Although PTSD is usually a term coined for war veterans, it can be applied to any emotional or social event deemed as abusive or emotionally traumatizing. I’ve seen it first-hand and its horrifying.

According to psychologytoday.com, there are two different causes for this stress – known and unknowns. The known are those anxieties that people commonly associate with divorce; how to start over, whether you keep or throw the house, loss of life as you know it and how you are going to afford it all – both the divorce and your life afterwards. Then there are the unknowns, those thoughts that keep you up at night, or as I refer to them ‘the what ifs’. Is the settlement going to be fair? Will I find a job? How will the kids fare? What happens next?

According to nhs.co.uk, there are three common symptoms that are associated with PTSD. These all can be easily associated to going through a divorce or separating from a narcissistic partner – sadly it can last years. The symptoms don’t occur every day, nor will there always be a trigger. Often you can experience long periods between symptoms so they may not even be apparent at first.

Avoidance and emotional numbing
People going through a particularly horrible divorce, or child custody battle, will isolate themselves further from family and friends. Plenty of people will have experienced isolation throughout their marriage but then they don’t go out to their way to rebuild relationships, often distracting themselves with work and hobbies. This behaviour is not to be horrible, or even because they want to be alone, but because they don’t want to face the questions that force them to re-enact it or even think about it.

Hyperarousal (feeling on edge)
Imagine if you were approached by a scary looking figure on the way home from work. For the rest of that journey, your adrenaline is pumping and you are on edge. Coming out of a divorce is very much the same way and you’ll often find yourself on guard at all times. This can lead to irritability, angry outbursts, insomnia and difficulty concentrating – even more so if your life is being absorbed fighting off the all the lies and rumours being fed to the courts about you.

Re-Experiencing
Unfortunately it’s hard to avoid a partner during divorce and custody proceedings, even more so if you have children together. It is expected that you will have negative thoughts about the whole relationship but you have to be careful to not drive yourself mad may start driving yourself crazy asking ‘what if’ questions, moving on from the flashbacks or even physical symptoms (nausea, pain, sweating).

The most important thing to remember during this difficult time is that you’re not alone. There are millions of dads across the world going through the same situation where they are fighting for their children. Don’t bottle it up, talk to someone or join our Suffragents Clubs. Open to Men, Fathers, Grandparents, Friends and supporters. For more information, visit our website www.suffragents.org.

 

[1] http://www.mentalhealthy.co.uk/news/1481-divorce-stress-syndrome-similar-to-ptsd.html

International men’s day

 “It’s a shocking fact that around the world, one man a minute dies by suicide with men and boys being twice as likely to die by suicide as women and girls. That’s not just a statistic, that’s somebody’s son, husband, brother, father or friend dying and we can and must do more to save these men’s lives.”
-Warwick Marsh, InternationalMensDay.com coordinator

Saturday 19th November 2016 marked a historical day for men. Finally, after years and years of fighting for it, we received an international day that focused on men’s issues such as

  • Mens and boy’s health
  • Improving gender relations
  • Promoting gender equality
  • Highlighting positive male role models
  • Celebrating their achievements and contributions, in particular their contributions to community, family, marriage, and child care while highlighting the discrimination against them.

Men, like women, make sacrifices every day in their work, role as husband and fathers, for their families, their friends and communities etc. Over 60 different countries across the world worked together to celebrate this contribution and – more importantly – discuss the silent killer that is taking so many fathers, sons, husbands, brothers and grandfathers from us: Suicide. Find out more below but an important fact to remember is that 4 men commit suicide to every 1 woman.

In the UK, 4,630 men killed themselves in 2014, men are nearly four times more likely to kill themselves than women with 13 men dying from suicide every day. International Men’s Day UK invites all people, all over the UK, to use 19th November 2016 to start a national conversation about male suicide in your country.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRktbxX2Zos

According to dedicated website, ukmensday.org.uk, The theme is designed to help more people consider what action we can all take to “Make A Difference” by addressing some of the issues that affect Men and Boys such as:

  • The high male suicide rate
  • The challenges faced by boys and men at all stages of education including attainment
  • Men’s health, shorter life expectancy and workplace deaths
  • The challenges faced by the most marginalised men and boys in society (for instance, homeless men, boys in care and the high rate of male deaths in custody)
  • Male victims of violence, including sexual violence
  • The challenges faced by men as parents, particularly new fathers and separated fathers
  • Male victims and survivors of sexual abuse, rape, sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, forced marriage, honour-based crime, stalking and slavery
  • The negative portrayal of men, boys and fathers

 

A long fight
Although an amazing day, and one that will change a lot of lives, it hasn’t been an easy fight. The first call for International Mens Day was over 50 years ago in the 1960s. Many men came forward and asked for 23rd February to be International Mens Day, the male equivalent of International Women’s Day which is on March the 8th. In 1968, journalist John P. Harris, wrote an editorial brining to light the lack of balance in the Soviet System which promoted the day for women without celebrating men. Amongst the article is a quote about the communist system still very much relevant to society in general today, if not more so:

“makes much of the equal rights it has given the sexes, but as it turns out, the women are much more equal than the men[1].”

The interest in International Mens Day has been nothing less than outstanding with 60 different events across the country to bring attention to these issues. It has also made history. Following an argument bought forward by MP Philip Davies, the backbench MPs discussed the highlighted issues and bought them to light including male suicides, male victims experience of domestic violence and marginalization amongst others. They have published the full debate online which can be downloaded and read here.

 

We don’t need to tell you how happy we are to see International Mens Day and hope that it makes a positive difference around the world. But that doesn’t mean we can sit back and relax, there is still so much to do. We need you to keep talking about it, sharing things you see (including our tweets and Facebook posts) and highlighting any person who is seen to be actively promoting the denial of a father to his children. Join the fight and keep the conversation going – without that, men will still suffer in silence.

[1]  John P. Harris, ‘Red Women – Painted Town’, Salina Journal, p.4. 28 March 1964

Men don’t need self esteem anyway!

MP Philip Davies recently shared his disgust at the fact that women don’t have to wear uniform in prison as it may affect their self esteem, however, men can only earn the right.

This question triggered a research project that not only exposed gender inequality within prisons but also within the sentencing structure.

This blog post started with one simple question, asked by a colleague:

 “Did you know that female prisoners don’t have to wear uniforms in prison as it may affect their self esteem?”

This question triggered a research project that not only exposed gender inequality within prisons but also within the sentencing structure (more about that in our next blog). It began by reading through the PSO 4800: Guidance notes on gender specific standards focusing on woman prisoners, a document written against the background of the new Gender Equality Duty (April 2007), to see what rules apply directly to woman.  I would like to say that I’ve conducted a thorough comparison between the guidance notes for men and woman but I couldn’t find one for men specifically. There was an information booklet, written by the Ministry of Justice, for male prisoners and young offenders but does not have the same format, or detail, as the PSO so any comparison would be futile.

Subsection 3 of Category G: ‘Day to day living’ focuses on the property and clothing of female prisoners.  Within this section, which takes reference from Her Majesty’s Prison Service (HMPS) Standard, states that most male prisoners wear prison issue clothing and exchange dirty for clean from the prison laundry whereas women should be allowed to wear their own clothing?  The reasoning behind this decision was that

‘Women do not wear uniform and have not for many years. It is generally recognized that part of the rehabilitation for many women prisoners involves the ability to maintain and raise self-esteem. Self-esteem is linked to many women with personal appearance. Many women will want to have regular changes to clothing, to have varied clothing, to use make up and dress their hair.

This means that women need greater amount of clothing than men and thus will need access to more property – including toiletries – particularly lifers and women serving long sentences.’

 Whilst we agree with needing access to more toiletries in prison, particularly for hygiene reasons during the menstrual cycle, the idea that appearance is less important to a person’s self esteem if they are male is ludicrous. Even more non sensical is that men are given the opportunity to wear their own clothing only when earned under an incentive and earned privileges scheme. It’s not just the inequality of this decision that infuriates me but, as the link between clothing and identity has long been established, it seems that the prison service is saying that males’ rights are less than that of a female. In a paper entitled ‘Clothing, Identity and the Embodiment of Age’, Julia Twigg[1] expands more on what sociologists such as Veblen (1889)[2] and Simmel (1904)[3] have  previously explored, that clothing is more than simply apparel and actually helps a person define class identity. This belief was expanded on by Fine and Leopold (1993)[4], Polhemus (1994)[5] and Evans (1997)[6] who looked into the use of clothes as a means of self expression, self realisation, stabilising identity and registering belonging.

Nowadays, we have modernised the prison uniform to consist of grey trousers, sweatshirts and jumpers with prison issued underwear and socks. In November 2013 Chris Grayling, who was then Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice but has since been moved to Transport Secretary, announced that all convicted male prisoners are to be banned from watching violent and sexually explicit films as part of a crackdown on perks. The article fails to mention if females will be treated the same way but, as female prisoners are mentioned later in the article, it’s safe to assume that this isn’t a rule for all.

Of course, traditionally, prison uniform was about establishing uniformity. Women in UK jails have not been required to wear uniforms as research found they were better behaved when allowed to wear their own clothes. However, in his speech to parliament, MP Philip Davies revealed that supporting research conducted by the Ministry of Justice was ‘so deficient it was not even published’. If it has not been proven to be true, how can it be enforced? Prisons should not run on hearsay but cold, hard facts.  By taking away the prisoners clothes, they remove the person’s sense of identity and turn them into a non person, therefore helping to institutionalise them. By segregating prisoner’s rights by their gender, the HMPS standards are sending out a strong message – that male prisoners are not valued as highly as female.

We are not asking for prisons to throw out uniforms, or that prisons should not allow clothing be used as an incentive, but that there should be equality between the sexes. Both male and female inmates should be either in uniform or in casual clothes.To even imply that one sexes self esteem is valued above another is uneducated and abhorrent.

[1] http://www.actyourage.eu/uploads/files/clothing_identity_and_the_embodiment_of_age.pdf
[2] Veblen, T. (1899/1953) The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions, New York: Mentor
[3] Simmel, G (1904/ 1971) ‘Fashion’, On Individuality and Social Forms: Selected Writings, trs D.C.Levine, Chicago: University of Chicago Press
[4] Fine, B. and Leopold, E (1993) The World of Consumption, London: Routledge
[5] Polhemus, T. (1994) Streetstyle: From Sidewalk to Catwalk, London: Thames and Hudson
[6] Evans, C. (1997) ‘Street style, subculture and subversion’ Costume, 31, 105-10

Stand Up and Speak Out

On October 28th 2015, Conservative MP Philip Davies questioned the Backbench Business Committee as to use International Men’s Day as an opportunity to discuss issues such as men’s shorter life expectancy, high male suicide rate and domestic violence against men. Shockingly, he was laughed at.

On October 28th 2015, Conservative MP Philip Davies questioned the Backbench Business Committee as to why MPs held a debate on International Women’s Day every year yet there was no equivalent for men. He wanted International Men’s Day (which falls on November 19th), to be used as an opportunity to discuss issues such as men’s shorter life expectancy, high male suicide rate and domestic violence against men. Shockingly, this idea was not only rejected by the Backbench Business Committee but Labour MP Jess Phillips, notably the only female on the committee, laughed before saying:

 “When I’ve got the parity, when women in these buildings have parity, you can have your debate. And that will take an awfully long time.”

 Journalist, Glen Poole, stated, quite correctly, in his article for The Telegraph that this deplorable behavior is the equivalent of a male politician giggling at the suggestion that parliament should discuss issues such as violence against women, breast cancer screening and eating disorders.  To view the full exchange, click here (Davies petition starts at 14:53).

 Davies had 30 supporters for his application; 3 from the Democratic Unionist Party and 27 from Conservatives. Labour MP Ian Mearns, Chairman for the Backbench Business Committee, stated that he needed to get support from other parties in order for his application to be approved and put in front of parliament. In order to help Davies get this movement, which could help prevent at least some of the men who commit suicide as they have no way out, we need you to get in touch with your local MP. Ask them to support Davies in his application to the committee in order to get his motion debated by the Government.

 We know that you are busy and that trying to find the time to get in touch with your local MP can prove difficult but you really need to make time for it. This is not one simple motion. This is a call for Government to change the way in which it deals with the inequality clearly apparent in the judicial system and even as far up as the Government.  If the motion is passed, something that will not happen without your help, many of the issues men face on a daily basis will be presented to parliament annually giving you all a voice on a scale that we haven’t had before. The disrespect that Phillips so publicly voiced is one of the reasons that men often don’t openly come forward with the problems they are facing – through fear of being mocked, ridiculed or being told that their problems are inferior to those that women face. Despite the fact that men account for between one third and one half of all victims in intimate relations, with the figures rising with the severity of abuse suffered.

 To make getting in touch easier, we have compiled a list of all the MPs in the country along with their phone number and emails. Simply click on the link and find your location. It would be best, and more effective, to go and visit your MP face to face in their surgery times so you can ask them directly why women get 80 million for domestic abuse when men don’t get a ratial and proportionate amount spent on them. While this way would be best, as it denies them the chance to ignore you or wiggle out of an answer, we appreciate it is not always possible. Where it isn’t, write them a letter, email or give them a phone call strongly urging them to get in touch with Davies, to give their support to the application and encourage them to voice their unhappiness at the disrespect shown to issues that affect men everyday. We currently have almost 9K followers on our Suffragents Facebook page and, if you all find a few moments to get in touch, then maybe some of the £80 million funding the Government gives specifically to support female domestic violence victims can be spent supporting the male victims too.

Suffragents Going National

To all that believe that our Divorce Laws have to change to give Fairness to Fathers, their Children and the paternal Family.

 WHY are fathers not the primary carer/resident parent?

 Between now and the end of July I promised that I shall visit around England, Scotland and Wales. (Northern Ireland later). I am fulfilling that promise and shall be at the below locations:

Continue reading “Suffragents Going National”