It is fair to say that having a child diagnosed with a life threatening illness is a very big pill to swallow. A life changing experience that will alter the way you view every aspect of your life. This again increases should the worst happen, you lose that child. Whatever the situation, it is likely that you will not be able to navigate this minefield of emotions without support and help. This may be in the form of family and friends or it could be that you seek professional help such as medical support through your GP (Anti-depressants) or psychological (Counselling), you may need them all.
Purely from a personal point of view and to be completely transparent, I needed additional support during my daughter’s treatment and subsequently after she passed away. I had an amazing support system in place with family and close friends but knew I needed something extra to help me on my journey. To use an analogy, life is a journey and it is filled with signposts to show us the way. Unfortunately these signs are sometimes obscured and we can become lost or found wavering - that is when we need guidance to get us back on track.
In all aspects of our normal lives we take time for ourselves, we take care of our medical and dental needs, we consult professionals for advice on matters we have little or no knowledge of. This may be electricians, gas engineers or car mechanics, whatever they may be we need their advice or help. Mental health is no different. It is nothing to be ashamed of and could make the difference, it’s called Self Care. From a counselling perspective, one of the ethical principals that binds the practice is to ensure that a counsellor practices self-care. This is to ensure they work ethically and safely with their clients and should be the same for us all. If we do not do this, it can lead us to make bad decisions and choices and make it hard for those around us.
I was told during my journey that having a child with a life threatening illness and/or losing a child could lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This could be due to the massive stresses put on a person witnessing things that, thankfully, most people will never see but, because we are civilians, it is not always recognised.
One particular group that is at risk (certainly not disregarding the females), especially at a time of high stress and emotions is us boys. The men of the world. Male suicide has escalated so dramatically over the past few years to a point where males are three times more likely to commit suicide than females, as per the statistics for 2018. Yes, there are many differing reasons why this is so and I would encourage you to do your own research if you wish but, for the purpose of this blog and the fact that it is aimed at a particular audience, I'd respectfully like to focus on them.
As a male we are bombarded with introjected values from an early age; how to behave as a male in the family, with our peers and within the workforce. We are told to be big and strong and that showing our emotions is showing weakness.
As a child we are told “Big boys don’t cry” and “stop being silly”. This is revisited in our teens as “man up”, “grow a pair” and other such like remarks.
Unfortunately, all of these comments set men up to fail. They cause significant harm leading into our adult lives to the tune of 6507 male deaths by suicide in the UK in 2018.
I would like to say that as a male (and one that is considered as an ‘alfa male’ by those that know me), it is ok to show your emotions as long as it is positive (nonviolent). Cry if you want to there’s no shame in it, you are a human being too. It is ok to ask for help, you don’t need to carry the weight of the world and struggle through when there are people out there that want to help, that can help and will make the difference. Ill post some helpful numbers at the end.
I know I have concentrated on the males of the world and hope that I have not offended any females by doing so. It goes without saying that all the things I have spoke about also relates to all the females out there; you should also consider the options about if you are struggling, rather than suffering in silence.
To close, I would like to implore you all to be kind to yourselves, practice self-care and please, if you need support, reach out, there will be someone there. For your reference I have added a few helpful numbers below but you can also Google other resources specific to your area.
Your GP surgery
Samaritans (24/7) - Tel 116 123
Macmillan cancer support (7dpw 8am-8pm) - Tel 0808 808 0000
Cruse Bereavement (Monday to Friday 9-5pm) - Tel 0844 479400
Shout support in crisis - Text Shout to 85258