Anyone feeling lonely on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day can join a free online meeting in the afternoon to alleviate the loneliness that often increases during these holidays.
The Zoom meeting is organized by a recently established peer-led support group for men Isma’ Abib.
“Anyone who feels they need support and feel lonely for whatever reason – whether it’s life circumstances, mental health issues or addictions – is welcome to join for free,” said Bryn Kennard, who organizes the groups.
Christmas and New Year’s Day chats are open to both men and women.
Loneliness is still an important social problem in the community. According to a study conducted by the Faculty of Social Welfare in 2022, 55 percent of Maltese people feel lonely. An international study has also shown that anxiety and depression have increased after the pandemic.
Kennard, a recovering addict, was encouraged to get started Isma’ Abib Fidem Foundation founder Sabine Agius Cabourdin. Fidem supports a peer-led support group as one of its initiatives.
Kennard says that he wanted to create a safe space where men suffering from mental health problems can meet, discuss and seek support.
In groups, people share similar experiences that create a sense of understanding and empathy. This reduces stigma and empowers people to take control of their lives.
Members often learn to express themselves more effectively, listen actively and give constructive feedback, she said, stressing that groups are not a substitute for professional mental health care.
It’s ironic that in an era of high online connectivity, people feel lonely
“I lived in shame”
Kennard, 49, knows what it’s like to face the stigma and be pushed down by society because of his addiction.
“I have lived in shame for years because of this and because of how society portrays addicts. Saying it and embracing it has freed me from that shame. “I didn’t choose to be an addict, but it’s something I have to own and take responsibility for,” he said.
But over time, he learned that his addiction was neither a disease nor a choice. It was an attempt to escape the emotional suffering that resulted from child abuse.
“I went through trauma. I hope no one has to go through it, and I pray for anyone who has had to endure what I have. The impact of my early childhood experiences affected the neurobiology and physiology of my brain and has affected me psychologically, the impact of which I’m still really only beginning to understand and process. There’s no recovery from trauma, there’s no going back, and there’s no cure, you just learn to bear it better and healthier.”
Now, after finding help for himself, he works to help other men find support to heal from whatever is causing their trauma and mental health issues. He does this with the support of Fidem.
Agius Cabourdin explains that although Fidem was founded specifically to empower women through education, their mental well-being was always paramount. “Expanding into men’s mental health was a natural fit after Fidem’s experience with WeConnect – an online community addressing the crippling loneliness and anxiety that affected people during the pandemic.”
Even though COVID is now in the past, feelings of anxiety and the need to connect with people are still very much present.
“It’s ironic that in an era of high online connectivity, people feel alone as they fight their demons and still feel the need to reach out. With men, the hardest step is the first: admitting they need help. Next is getting rid of the perceived stigma of seeking help. Isma’ Abib aims to break down that stigma and provide a safe space for men to seek help without judgment,” he said.
Fidem also establishes a peer-led support group for women Bejnietna.
Kennard started holding support groups every Monday about two months ago.
As Christmas Day and New Year’s Day fall on Mondays, the support groups are held at 3pm and on these two occasions they are open to both men and women.
For more information, visit www.ismahabib.org/ and www.bejnietna.org/.
Anyone who wants to join the online group on Christmas or New Year’s Day can find the link at Isma’ Habib Facebook page.
This is the link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/4857692656pwd=OHhUbHRqOE5TR3YzUzdEUUd3MjQzQT09
(Meeting ID: 485 769 2656 Access code: e9Zzxw)
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Image Source : timesofmalta.com