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Male help-seeking behaviour and suicide – stereotypes or archetypes?

On World Suicide Prevention Day, the following is a summary of the main thoughts behind Consultant Clinical Psychologist Martin Seager’s chapter on male suicide in The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health.

 

Suicide is universally a gender issue, with male deaths outnumbering female by a large percentage in virtually every country, in very age group and in every year since records began.

Research into suicide however has largely been gender-neutral, and is only now even beginning to show any curiosity about male gender experience of suicide. Many books on suicide don’t consider male gender at all as a theme, meaning that the male gender experience is usually invisible.

This vast disparity between the magnitude of male suicide and our lack of curiosity about the male lives behind the statistics is, in fact, the biggest clue to the causes of male suicide: the gender empathy gap. A lack of empathy for men and masculinity reflects the fact that human gender behaviour has an evolutionary basis.

 

An evolutionary basis

Sex differences are the basis for reproduction and evolution not just in the human species but in many others. In every culture, the evolved male archetype is about “strength”: to take risks, to provide, protect, fight, win and control emotions in order to focus on the successful performance of dangerous tasks. Because of the ‘male protector’ archetype we are all implicitly more tolerant of male death and suffering for the simple reason that we expect the male gender to offer protection rather than receive it.  The statistics on deaths and protective behaviours across the world prove this. Even the survival figures from the Titanic, where most of the women survived and most of the men died, show men were trying to protect women and children by getting them into the life boats.

 

Male shame

Male suicide is linked quite clearly to shame about weakness and failure, but this shame mirrors a societal lack of empathy for the male experience – this is why men don’t value their own vulnerability or seek help because they don’t expect to receive help and this is actually reflected in a lack of services for male victims and resistance to seeing men as a group with needs of their own.

However the currently popular social constructionist narratives around gender assume male gender behaviour is a set of stereotypes that can simply be retaught and remoulded.  Efforts are therefore being made – mistakenly – to educate boys and men to change their attitudes and behaviour. Masculinity itself is felt to be harmful and men are blamed for not seeking help and ultimately even for their own suicidality. Paradoxically this of course only reinforces the archetype that men are responsible for sorting all problems out, including themselves.

The shame men feel in seeking help is implicit in all society. Telling men to open up and seek help is a double standard when the actions and attitudes of society are not sympathetic and only reinforce the shame. This only confuses and paralyses men more.

 

Can we change men’s help-seeking behaviour?

In my chapter on male suicide I make it clear that trying to change an archetype as if it were a stereotype is not only mistaken but damaging and counterproductive. However, I argue that it is possible to redefine and reapply what the male archetype means in a modern social context:

  • We can redefine male strength to include help-seeking, because help-seeking involves facing problems, taking control and taking action. These are archetypally masculine attributes. If we tell men that by seeking help they are protecting their families, it plays into the archetype, not against it.
  • Helping any group can also only work if the approach is empathic, yet with men we have constantly tried to change or educate them, rather than accept them as they are or empathise with their world. This means we have not respected male differences in ways of communicating, relating and dealing with emotion. We have tried to fit men into a “counselling” model of what we think they should be, which is ironically closer to the female archetype.
  • The evidence is clear however that where services listen to men and offer help in a way that honours the male archetype, things work much better. This can be achieved through male spaces, doing things together, talking shoulder to shoulder rather than face to face.

Men do talk, if people listen in male-friendly ways. If we can change the language of our message on suicide from “open up, you stubborn men” to “let’s all open up to men” we will get a lot further and save many more lives.

 

About the author

Martin is a consultant clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, currently working with “Change, Grow, Live”. He is a lecturer, author, campaigner, and broadcaster. He worked in the NHS for 30 years, becoming head of psychological services in two mental health Trusts. He has advised government and has regularly broadcast with the BBC on mental health issues. He is co-founder of the Male Psychology Network, and was the original proponent of the Male Psychology Section of the BPS, of which he is the first Chair. He was branch consultant to the Central London Samaritans for over 10 years and has also been an adviser to the College of Medicine and the Royal Foundation.

 

Reference

Seager MJ  (2019). From stereotypes to archetypes: an evolutionary perspective on male help-seeking and suicide, in Barry JA, Kingerlee R, Seager MJ and Sullivan L (Eds.) (2019). The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health. London: Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology & Mental Health IBSN 978-3-030-04384-1 DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1  https://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783030043834

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Saving the next Steve

By Ben Akers, filmmaker

Kids are screaming. I’m completely skint and my body is achingly tired, but it’s all worth it. Why? Because I saved a life today.

5 years ago I lost a life. The life of my childhood best friend. Steve and I were like brothers. Born only 4 days apart, the decade from 11-21 were inseparable. There wasn’t one without the other.  But all that changed when we got older, got families, moved away. And on the 28th of May 2014 – Steve took his own life. And I was crushed.

A man every 2 hours is taking their own life in the UK.  But Steve wasn’t a statistic. He was a father, a son, a brother and friend.

For 20 years I’ve been an advertising creative. I sell things. And more recently I try to get people to think differently about things – call it behaviour change if you like.  So after a chat with JC (one of the founders of Movember) who told me that men of my age watch documentaries and sport, I thought What if I created a problem-solving documentary? What if I combined my skills and experience and try to help solve this problem?

So in December 2017 I began a journey. A journey of self recovery but one also trying to help men help themselves. And stop them taking their own lives. I began with a crowdfunder (raising just over £20K in the end) to create a documentary to save men from suicide.

In the 18 months that followed, I travelled up and down the country, interviewed 35 people, got over 50 hours of footage, and in the end crafted a feature length documentary.

The goal was to save one life. And we did that on the night of the premiere. A friend told me that when I asked him to do a video diary of his mental health, it forced him to open up and get help. He had written the letters to his wife and kids. He had made plans to kill himself. But me asking him to talk about his mental health made him stop. Made him reconsider and made him open up.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEp5ck-DYzI

And that’s been the amazing thing about this project. What I have learnt. I didn’t even know there was a Male Psychology Network. I didn’t know male psychology was different to female psychology. Off course it is. But I had never thought about it. And my interview with John Barry was enlightening. The way that men think. Why psychology is different. Why men might not go to therapy as much as women do.

It was one of the conversations, that got me thinking that this film had to be more than mental health awareness, it had to be mental health action.

So now, after a premiere in March and 24 screenings up and down the country, many at pubs – going to where the men are – I’ve created a very simple idea called Talk Club. Inspired by Andy’s Man Club and the CALM Best Man project – I thought What if we just help men talk to their mates?

What we do is simply ask men to score their feeling out of 10. You can’t have 7 – everyone says 7. Picking 6.9 or 7.1 is a decision, so that’s what we ask men to do, and then ask them to try to explain that number.

So that’s what we are doing. We show the film. Spark conversation and ask them to talk about their mental health, to take their mental fitness more seriously.

We also created a closed talking group on Facebook, which amazingly in 8 weeks has 715 members. And smaller, local face to face talking groups are popping up off that.

 

So what can you do?

1/ Join the men-only private Talking group https://m.facebook.com/groups/259185324880439

2/ Download the flyer:  https://jmp.sh/SmrlXLk (Print out double sided, fold in half 3 times) https://www.wetalkclub.com/

3/ Come to a screening of Steve: Stevedocumentary.com  The next two are at Brighton 23rd of July, and Bristol 15th July.

 

I can’t bring Steve back, but every day I can stop other families, other friends, other men feeling what I have felt, and save the next Steve.

 

About the author

Creative Director/Writer/Director Daddy of 3. Lover of ideas for good. Co-Founder of @MadeWith_ @GoodfestivalUK @TalkClubUK http://Stevedocumentary.com

 

Further information

Next screenings of Steve:

Brighton 23rd of July:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/steve-screening-platf9rm-hove-tickets-64240866160

Bristol 15th July:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bristolsouthville-screening-of-steve-tickets-63561285516

 

“Making of Steve”

Blog: https://stevethedocumentary.wordpress.com/

FB:             www.facebook.com/STEVEDOCUMENTARY

https://www.facebook.com/WeTalkClubUK/

Insta:          @STEVEDOCUMENTARY @Madewithltd @TalkClubUK

Twit:           @SteveDoco  + @benakers @Madewith_ @TalkClubUK

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Finding honey in the shitstorm: personal crisis, faith, and mental health.

by author and journalist, Neil Lyndon.

Recent research has suggested that men who have some religious faith are less likely to suffer depression and less likely to commit suicide.

The researchers said they were surprised to find that religious observance is, for men, a significant predictor of having mental positivity. Moreover, people who have religious faith are not put off taking their lives simply because they think it’s immoral; it seems to be more that they find resilience in their belief and from a sense of community.

Those findings came as no surprise to me. As one who suffered frequently from depression and anxiety for decades and was sometimes perilously close to suicide, I can positively affirm that the regular religious observances of the second half of my life (praying and meditating twice a day, going to church every Sunday) have immeasurably helped to heal me of that foul curse. Moreover, my religious routines have unquestionably helped to free me from lifelong addictions to self-polluting poisons and compulsive, damaging habits. Those benefits genuinely feel miraculous. I reverently give thanks for them every day.

The story of my religious odyssey crosses many way-points that are common to my generation.

Born in 1946, I was baptised into the Church of England. My parents were not churchgoers but I became a devout little boy who sang in the church choir and – like Bertie Wooster – won Religious Knowledge prizes at school. For some years, I felt called to become a priest until around the age of 13, when a moment of blinding revelation came to me in school prayers. “I don’t believe a word of this pious twaddle,” I realised, “and I am certain that the teachers who are ritualistically doling it out don’t believe a word themselves.” That epiphany – very much like the experiences recorded by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens – led me, like them, to atheism and Marxism. By the age of 16, I was carrying a membership card for the Young Communist League, though I never actually signed it.

Also, around that same time, while still at school, I first consulted a GP for depression and anxiety and was prescribed anti-depressants. She knew that my father was serving a long term in prison for serious crimes and she knew that my family life at home was chaotic, making it extraordinarily difficult for me to find my way through exams to university. And already, by that age, I was habitually drinking, smoking, taking daredevil risks, living in financial chaos and messing around with half a dozen girls at a time. Drugs followed automatically.

That was to be largely the story of my early 20s until – propelled out of control by LSD, marijuana, speed, drink and some touches of heroin – I crashed into a suicidal breakdown when I was 24. A carving knife in my own hand had been pointed at my heart before a friend dragged me to the local mental hospital where – thanks to the NHS – I began my first sessions of counselling and psychotherapy and started to take trycyclic antidepressants.

While making disordered efforts to heal myself – running, swimming and progressively quitting drugs – I began, to my profound perplexity, to experience undeniable, Wordsworthian intimations of the divine – in nature, in landscape and in love. As a hardened atheist, I was at a loss to come to terms with these apprehensions of a spiritual dimension beyond the materialistic and the worldly. The birth of my first child, when I was 36, introduced me to the miracle of unconditional love – that certainty that you would give your own life for another person in a heartbeat if necessary – which itself appeared to open a doorway to the divine, though I had no clue where it might take me.

In my later thirties, I lived and worked for five years in California, where spirituality flows out of the taps. Still ensnared in the toxic coils of addiction to drink, tobacco and promiscuous sex, I sought help in expensive therapy and with Alcoholics Anonymous. My counsellor was the first person I ever met to suggest that the poetic stories of the Bible might be interpreted allegorically and that the father in heaven, the virgin birth, the miracles, the resurrection could all be seen as figurative expressions, enabling us to domesticate and anthropomorphise the incomprehensible divinity of the universe. Made sense to me.

A bookshop round the corner from my office in Los Angeles was packed with spiritual texts – many of which are now on my shelves at home. They introduced me to Unitarian, Jewish, Gnostic, pantheist, Buddhist and Taoist perspectives on divinity which roughly synthesised in my mind (much in the way, I later discovered, they had synthesised in Wagner’s thoughts). These diverse scraps of understanding were nailed into place with a resounding clang when, standing in an aisle of that shop one afternoon, I opened a Bible at random and came across the words of John, who said “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” That simple declaration rooted me to the spot in that shop and has rooted my life ever since

It then followed, in my early forties, that I found my way back to my spiritual home, the Church of England – not least because that devout little choirboy knew the Anglican liturgy in his bones. Because the CoE was and remains theologically derelict, I felt free to interpret its hymns, psalms, prayers and rituals in my own terms, rather than according to the precepts of an unchallengeable authority. No Pope; no heresy. By coincidence, I was confirmed in the CoE and declared my faith in a father in heaven (“metaphorically speaking”, as I would mutter under my breath) within days of the death of my own father on earth. No doubt Professor Dawkins would smirk knowingly and question the coincidence. My LA counsellor, however, would unreservedly have approved.

That confirmation took place 30 years ago next month. During those decades my religious adherence has grown ever stronger and my religious observances ever more regular and nourishing, despite a succession of Job-like trials in the 1990s.

In 1992, after building a comprehensive intellectual case for 20 years, I published No More Sex War: the Failures of Feminism – the world’s first critique of that ideology from an egalitarian, non-sexist point of view.

That book and its author were then subjected to more sustained philistine abuse than any work and any writer in our own time. Socially and professionally ostracised, I lost my income, my home and most of my friends – while the shitstorm also provided cover for the legalised abduction of my only child by his alcoholic mother.

During the 1990s, I also buried a baby who was afflicted with one of the world’s rarest malformations; was nearly killed in an accident of surreal horror; endured the breakdown of a cherished relationship in a tawdry triangle that could have been scripted for The Archers; and then became sole parent to a teenager who had run away from his hopelessly unfit mother.

Somebody who takes the Bible to be the literal truth might suppose that God was testing me (and who knows? as a beekeeper and a gardener, I do sometimes admit the possibility that a supernatural power may stand in a similar relationship to our world as I occupy in relation to my plants and insects). I would rather say that my religious devotions strengthened me to endure those trials.

However, my perception of divinity was never that of an intervening, providential Father Christmas figure who would sort out your mortgage and fix the holes in your roof if you uttered the correct magical spells and incantations. Instead, my daily prayers and meditations and weekly attendance at church are all devoted towards the same purpose as a musician might achieve by playing Bach every day. The reward for these exercises is to secure a perspective and a place in the universe – both as a being who is no more than a blade of grass or a bee and as one who, like all humans, shares in divinity through our great high priest, Jesus Christ.

That happy perspective does prove to be a sure defence against depression and suicidal feelings, to which I have been largely immune for almost 20 years. During those decades – when I have been entirely free of anti-depressant medicines – I created not just a new life but new life. I built a house; created a garden out of an acre of rough pasture; married a good woman and fathered two daughters whom we brought up as equal parents in the family set-up I had sought since I was in my twenties.

In my old age, I also – praise God Almighty – became free at last (Free At Last! Hallelujah!) of all addictions and all debt. Secure in marriage, family and faith, I now face my end with gratitude and in good heart.

As a state of mind and a state of being, we can probably agree that this is rather more desirable than facing your end at your own hand, sobbing uncontrollably in misery and despair, with a carving knife pointed at your heart.

 

About the author

Neil Lyndon is best known for his book No More Sex War (Sinclair-Stevenson 1992), described as “the world’s first egalitarian, progressive, non-sexist critique of feminism in its own terms”. Neil has also written articles for The Sunday Times, The Times, The Independent, the Evening Standard, the Daily Mail and The Telegraph.

 

 

 

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Does having religious faith reduce the risk of suicide?

By Dr John Barry

“Where is God? At the end of your tether”. (Source unknown)

One of the most unexpected findings of the Harry’s Masculinity Report of 2000 men in the British Isles was that religious observance was one of the significant predictors of having mental positivity (Barry & Daubney, 2017). This was surprising to me because I had formed the assumption that men in the UK don’t got to church very much any more. This assumption was based on my own observations that churchgoing was mainly done by people who are (a) older (b) female (c) not from Britain. However when I discussed this with a pastor in a London Hospital, I was surprised to find that men in other faiths were still regularly observed their religion, partly because it was more firmly rooted in their community life.

This made me wonder whether non-practicing Christian men in the UK are missing out on an important source of psychological support, one that might help them through crises, and might even reduce the risk of them taking their own lives.

A brief look at the research literature suggests that religious belief does indeed have a protective effect when it comes to suicide. For example, a US study of around 1500 people found that suicide rates were strongly correlated (r = -.85) with church attendance in the 1970s regardless of the sex or the churchgoer, or whether they were black or white (Martin, 1984). A US study of 1,098 black and white adolescents found that commitment to beliefs was correlated with lower scores on measures of depression and suicidality (Greening & Stoppelbein, 2011). In a cross-cultural study, Sisak et al (2010) found that people who attempted suicide (n = 2819) were less likely to be religious than non-attempters (n = 5484). This was a significant effect in Estonia, Brazil, Iran, Sri Lanka, and South Africa, though not in India or Vietnam. These findings don’t seem to suggest that people are put off taking their lives because they think it’s immoral, it seems to be more that people often find resilience in a set of beliefs and a sense of community.

The idea that religion is protective against suicide isn’t new – Durkheim had written about this in his classic 1897 book – so why do we hear so little about the mental health benefits of religion in the UK? I am going to engage in some speculation during the rest of this article, and welcome feedback from any readers who have answers, comments or suggestions.

Perhaps in the UK there is not a strong tradition of religious observance compared to other European countries, which means that religion is simply not a salient option to British people who are distressed. I would have thought that scandals since the 1980s over sexual abuse by Catholic priests has had an impact into how willing people are to accept orthodox religion, but the decline of religion in the UK since the 1980s has impacted the Church of England (down from 40% to 15%) rather than the Catholic church (down from 10% to 9%).

I wonder if part of the problem could be that traditional Christianity in the UK is, for many people, a relatively passive experience: you go to church for baptisms, weddings and funerals, where you might go through the motions of saying prayers or perhaps singing hymns… and that’s about it. No real discussion about what it all means to you, no putting the teachings into any tangible action, no real connection with other churchgoers. Some churches have clearly taken this on board, and engage more in community mental health or do practical social outreach activities (e.g. with homeless people). Given that when dealing with stress men tend to look for practical solutions rather than talking about their feelings, compared to women, it isn’t a stretch to guess that distressed men might find action-orientated activities a welcome adjunct to traditional prayer.

In any case, I’d like to suggest that in the UK today the church is a lost opportunity for many distressed men, and that perhaps churches can look at ways that they might make themselves more appealing to younger people, especially men.

 

Do you have any comments on this article? Please post them – we would love to hear from you.

 

About the author

Dr John Barry is a Chartered Psychologist and co-founder of the Male Psychology Network and Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. He is one of the editors of, and contributors to, The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open post

Men’s Mental Health in South Korea

by Alaric Naudé EdD PhD

In the third of our occasional series of blogs about views of Male Psychology and masculinity around the world, Professor of linguistics, Alaric Naudé, tells us about men’s mental health in the South Korea today.

Korea is a land of contrasts and beauty in many ways. However, just as many beautiful creatures have harsh toxins, Korea has several elements that can make it a harsh environment for men. Many of the difficulties that surround males are driven by the recent events in history including the Korean War and the hyper-military dictatorships that followed. These difficulties in pressure on men have also translated into unhappiness for the family unit.

The hierarchical structure of Korean society is based on Neo-Confucianism principles and this is reflected in the built in honorifics system of the Korean language. Korean grammar structure changes depending on the hierarchical position of the speaker relative to the person being addressed. Both men and women are under strict social pressure to behave to a certain standard and while this can be beneficial to social harmony, an unbalanced approach can lead to friction and disadvantage.

Fortunately in Korea the concept of feminism is not taken very seriously, ironically, strongest opposition come from women who view the movement as an affront to tradition, patronising and their extreme behaviour to be against the greater social good. With that said, there are specific inequalities that men have faced and are facing in Korea.

The hyper-militaristic dictatorship under Chung Hee Park forced conscription of men onto the whole country. His personal ideology was highly influenced by Bushido philosophy and he spearheaded his own particular brand. Men were to behave in the predefined manner as stipulated by the party policy. Unfortunately for groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, their men were specifically targeted. Their refusal of military conscription and desire to do non-military alternative service was viewed with great ire and many were beaten, tortured and killed.  Collectively they served prison sentences amounting to 37,800 years and this human rights abuse was only recently rectified.

Men in general have pressure to be of a certain socio-economic status before marriage and to have elaborate weddings, this has resulted in the marriage rate plummeting, the birth rate plummeting and the suicide rate significantly increasing. Many of my male students worry about their future work and possibility of marriage with several expressing a desire to search for work abroad.

Mental health in Korea is somewhat of a taboo subject and the stigma attached to men is significant. Having been diagnosed with a mental health issue may affect the type of work that can be gained and the ability to move up the socio-economic ranks, which in turn leads to more unhappiness and more suicide.

The Korean suicide rate is of special concern because the inability to access counselling in correlation to the stigma attached for even receiving counselling means that there is no easy remedy to the problem. Culturally men may also be hesitant to turn to their friends for assistance lest they be viewed as weak.

In school, boys are being out performed by girls. Demographically, teaching is a female dominated field and some of my female student teachers have commented that they feel unfair focus is given by other female teachers to their female students. Male students are becoming less motivated due to disinterest in studying based on the pressure of future expectations. This is likely to cause a large shift in future demographics. Females generally marry across the same socioeconomic level or upwards. Men generally marry on the same socioeconomic level or downwards. However, the current flip in academic results and the ever widening gap means that the future marriage rate will likely only continue to decrease, to the detriment of society and a catastrophe for population levels.

Like any other country, the issues facing Korea are highly complex and compounded by biological factors as well as the cultural damage caused by the Korean War. There are no easy answers, yet, psychological outreach and awareness of male mental health issues are an imperative beginning to resolving many of these conundrums.

 

About the author

Alaric Naudé EdD PhD is Professor of Linguistics at the Department of Nursing, Suwon Science College & Seoul National University of Education, South Korea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open post

How can you help men who are falsely accused of sexual abuse? Notes from the FASO helpline.

by Margaret Gardener

Picture: Margaret delivering a talk at University College London (UCL) on 28th Feb 2019 for the Male Psychology Network.

 

Let me ask you to do a thought experiment:

Have you ever considered the possibility that you could be arrested in your own home in front of your family and friends and neighbours, held in a police cell, interviewed under caution, charged and bailed or remanded to appear in court, when you haven’t actually done anything?

and

That your photograph, name and address, might appear in the local and national press and on TV, insinuating what an evil monster you are?

and

That having been released without charge or with all charges dropped, with your good name and integrity still intact (at least in the eyes of the law) you might be subjected to additional investigation by the social services and other agencies, where you may have no right of representation or comment?

and

That social services could force you to break off contact with your family and children?

and

Without proof, evidence, witnesses, or corroboration you could be convicted and sentenced to several years in prison when you haven’t actually done anything?

Having thought about, how would you feel now if one or more of the above scenarios really happened to you?

 

Empathy is key

When trying to understand the psychology of what the falsely accused feel, you have to firstly put yourself in their position. The first step to helping them is to try to understand how people that seek our support feel.

Some contact FASO regularly; others just occasionally. Some understandably feel they cannot cope and sadly feel suicidal. They tell us that sharing their stories with people who understand what they are going through can be cathartic, and they generally feel better because we know what they are going through.

Families who phone for support for those in this situation feel helpless. They tell us that their loved ones withdraw and won’t speak to anyone. They won’t go out, see a doctor, or take up opportunities for support.  The family member is often scared for the sanity of themselves and their loved ones, including children of course.  Children cry. They can’t understand why they can’t see the accused person. We all feel the huge stress that false accusations bring.

The accused person can experience a huge range of emotions and mental health issues: extreme stress; feeling that no-one will listen despite having to repeat themselves constantly; often having a shaky voice which leads to tears of anger, frustration. Crucially they feel utter disbelief: why would someone make such heinous yet untrue accusations?  Some of the thoughts we hear about are:

  • What made them make an allegation that I am such a monster? Where did such a thought come from?
  • My head is whirling; I feel sick; cannot concentrate; I can’t eat or sleep. I am collapsing and feel suicidal!
  • Where do I go? I won’t go out as friends might believe the allegations. Where/who do I turn to? I am isolated from everyone. I have nowhere to live!
  • My family is destroyed. My partner and children are crying for me as I am for them. 
  • Why is it taking so long to be investigated? How am I to manage in the court – what is it like? I don’t understand what the barrister and solicitor are saying. I can’t even get a lawyer as I can’t afford it. Why can’t all my evidence be used in court – I am told it is not allowed?

 

There is no euphoric feeling if a not guilty vote by the jury is returned

It often takes months/years of heartache, maybe losing the family, costing the earth, losing a job forever with the trauma still within the individual. “No, I cannot get on with life”, they say; “it will never be the same again”.

Note that the above issues are the reactions of those who are newly accused. The reactions of the falsely accused who are in prison is another matter. They have ongoing issues to deal with and more to come when they are released from prison.

FASO has been operating now for 17 years. We are volunteers without any funding. We can offer a sympathetic ear, but we can’t give desperate people the answers or practical support they want or need. We are not lawyers and cannot offer legal or counselling services. We can only perform a “sticking plaster” service of being a friendly, supportive ear and try to signpost people to other services that may be able to help. But those services are in very short supply in a broken criminal justice system. The UK government in 2000 estimated that there were around 120,000 false accusations annually. FASO sees just the tip of this very large iceberg, and the number of people who we cannot help is too overwhelming to contemplate.

 

About the author

Margaret Gardener is the founder of the False Allegations Support Organisation (FASO). Her presentation at UCL on this topic will be on the Male Psychology Youtube channel in early March 2019.

Margaret has a background in voluntary emergency nursing and prior to this a career in the civil service, serving abroad during this time, which helped to improve her communication skills. She was a registered foster carer for special needs teenagers and was catapulted through a family experience, as a volunteer, into the False Allegations Support Organisation in 2001. Her fist role at FASO was Secretarial, she then progressed to the helpline (using her empathy skills, and supporting callers in their distress). As the Director of FASO (UK) she addresses parliament and agencies both criminal and family through the medium of consultations and meetings, whilst liaising with Academia and like-minded groups. She addresses in part the issues of the hidden victims, both children/vulnerable adults and the accused parent/individual on safeguarding issues.

The FASO website, with helpline details, is http://www.false-allegations.org.uk/

Email: support@false-allegations.org.uk

Phone: 0844 335 1992

Monday to Friday, 18:00 to 22:00.

 

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