Tis the season to be… lonely

For some adults and young people, the holidays can be extremely isolating, says Menslink CEO Martin Fisk. DANIELLE NOHRA reports…

Menslink CEO Martin Fisk… “We see some kids who fear a Christmas that’s filled with alcohol and violence, which is such a shame.” Photo by Danielle Nohra

FOR many, Christmas is a time to get together with loved ones, eat lots of food and give and receive presents, but for some adults and young people, the holidays can be extremely isolating, says Menslink CEO Martin Fisk.

In particular it can be hard for men, says Martin, who believes guys can be more socially isolated because they’re less willing to really invest in relationships.

“Christmas can become the time when that’s really apparent,” he says.

“We know that the holiday period can exacerbate feelings of hopelessness and loneliness.

“Take somebody who is an absolute workaholic and they might be putting in massive amounts of work hours and potentially jeopardising a relationship.

“When Christmas comes around there’s no work to be done.

“Some men use their work as a coping mechanism for relationship breakdowns.”

But Christmas isn’t only a hard time for adults, and Martin says about one in four teenagers are from a separated household, which means they might be running from one household to another.

“It might involve being with one parent and not the other,” he says.

In 2012 the Australian Bureau of Statistics released information saying there were 780,000 single-mother families, which made up 81 per cent of one-parent families.

“We see a bunch of young men who, for whatever reason, might be separated from people they love [such as] parents, step parents and even sometimes brothers and sisters,” Martin says.

“We see some kids who fear a Christmas that’s filled with alcohol and violence, which is such a shame.

“We know Christmas can, unfortunately, be a time of increased family violence, which is why at Menslink we always recommend to give the gift of kindness.

“While advertisers want us to go and buy the latest products to give as gifts, actually the best gift is to give the gift of kindness.”

And, Martin also recommends reaching out to people who might be isolated.

“I think as parents, uncles, aunties and neighbours, if you see an isolated kid or a mum or dad, reach out and offer help,” he says.

“You might see somebody just not looking happy, not talking much and their eyes are downcast, or there might be a lot of anger and shouting.

“Schools will often notice an increase in problematic behaviour in the last few weeks of term.

“It’s almost always an indication that a young person is struggling in their home life.”

If people do see someone struggling, no matter what their age or gender, he recommends engaging with them in a conversation and asking them: “Are you okay?”

“You might know somebody who maybe had a death in the family this year,” he says.

“Give them a call, it won’t cost you anything.”

And for people looking for ways to overcome feelings of loneliness, Martin says a really good thing to do is volunteering and helping people.

“One of the reasons there’s an upsurge of people volunteering on Christmas is because people who volunteer are generally less isolated, more connected and lead happier lives,” he says.

For 24-hour support call Beyond Blue on 1300 224636 or Lifeline on 131114.

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