Piecing together the pain of loss for men after abortion

The Daily Telegraph — There are some times in life when you don’t join the dots until you have a conversation that’s like switching on a series of light bulbs.
This week, I had one of those. I put down the phone absolutely stunned.
We know male suicide rates are soaring.
Did you know male suicides and abortion-related mental illness are interrelated? Neither did I. It’s poorly understood by professionals, too.
“Most suicide counselors aren’t trained to identify abortion trauma,” Julie Cook, national director of Abortion Grief Australia (AGA) tells me.
“In fact, the vast majority aren’t even aware that it can be an issue for men. Most women have no concept that abortion can hurt men.
“Irrespective of the role the male played in the abortion, women often feel abandoned and, on an emotional level, blame the male for the abortion outcome.”
Research suggests that men can experience grief and emotional distress in relation to abortion. That makes sense, they’re human beings too.
In 2011, an Australian researcher, Dr Kaeleen Dingle from the University of Queensland, presented a study at the World Congress of Asian Psychiatry in Melbourne showing the connection between young men and depression.
She found young men whose partners aborted were twice as likely to use substances and suffer depression compared with men who had not had that experience.
“Male suicides can be both directly and indirectly related to abortion,” Cook says.
“One of the biggest predictors of male suicide is relationship breakdown. Unless work is done towards resolution, abortion trauma often destroys relationships.”
She adds that unresolved trauma is a frequent causal factor in domestic violence. Why is no one talking about this?
One of the biggest predictors of male suicide is relationship breakdown. Unless work is done towards resolution, abortion trauma often destroys relationships
In 2016, AGA received a government Mental Health Grant to raise awareness in this area. As with many areas of mental health, awareness is the beginning of the domino effect that leads to getting vital help.
“A woman called recently crying hysterically. It would have been her wedding day, she was inconsolable,” says Cook. “Her fiance had taken his life a few weeks before. She had been pregnant and thought it was too soon to add a baby to their relationship, so went for an abortion and didn’t say a word.
“When he found out he was overcome with grief and took his life. It’s not uncommon. This is something we must recognize and discuss more openly as a society.”
She tells me this is affecting men of all ages. Yes, even teenagers.
The stories are countless and make my blood run cold. This is a heartbreaking ocean of pain I had no idea existed. As a woman, I wonder if I have only ever thought of abortion from one side of the fence?
“You wouldn’t be alone if that’s the case,” says Cook. One counselor was contacted by police regarding a 16-year-old boy. They saved him from suicide “by two seconds”.
My heart pounds in my chest as I hear his story.
“He had been doing well at school but following his girlfriend’s abortion and their subsequent breakup, his grades fell. He dropped out of school and became homeless. Sadly, he also told the counselor of a friend’s suicide because of abortion too,” Cook said.
Of course, this isn’t a blame game. And, of course, this has nothing to do with pointing a finger at women who, rightly, have control over their bodies.
As with all this murky reality that lies between fierce feminist absolutism and a tiny island of compassion for men, the crux is understanding.
If we start having this conversation, awareness will be raised. More light bulbs will be turned on in time.
The 16-year-old is back living at home, is on track with a further education course and doing well. Why? Because the counselor was trained and understood.
Acknowledging male pain, despair and grief is the first vital step towards reuniting the sexes and joining hands across this hideous blazing gender war.
We are all in this together. We must find compassion for men and boys too.
For more information and support visit www.abortiongrief.asn.au

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