The truth about custody disputes, suicide and compassion

Posted by on May 22, 2017

At some point, when everyone was too angry to notice, compassion walked out of the door and closed it quietly behind itself.

After several articles here on MLO and in the mainstream media about reform to the CSA, concerning arguments were voice by extremists with very loud voices.

Any extreme is dangerous.

For a refreshing change, there were several articles raising issues of financial distress, men funding children they’ve never met, or ending up homeless because they can’t keep up with demands.

The disturbing response from hideously gynocentric media? “It would be heartbreaking if it was true”.

One went further, denying that there is any proof that relationship breakdowns, CSA or family court have any connection to the soaring male suicide rate. Please note that between 2004 and 2014, we lost 19,995 men to suicide. The Australian suicide rate among men aged 40 to 44 is reportedly at its highest in 13 years.

Is all of our sympathy reserved only for women these days?

When did we start presuming that men are absolutely bulletproof?

We must stop denying the damage being done to men’s lives, and much as we recognise women’s.

Women are not worth more than men.

That’s equality, folks.

There were bitter exchanges on social media with one side trading statistics with the other in a livid mission to prove their point.

What is that bitterly polarised exchange achieving?

Rather than going to battle with fantasy figures, how about we put on the brakes and look at the reality of the impact relationship breakdown has on both genders?

After all, the point of equality is that we’re all human beings.

Pete Nicholls, CEO of Parents Beyond Breakup tells me, “A ten-year study in Queensland, the Queensland Suicide Registry (QSR), is the best overall insight we have into causes of suicide as it relates to relationship breakdown in Australia. The findings relate only to Queensland, but it’s by far the most detailed data on the subject. If we extrapolate the findings across Australia, we find that of the 44 men that take their lives each week, 11 or so of those will have done so specifically due to relationship conflict, relationship separation or child custodial issues. That’s 25 per cent or one in four of all male suicides, a statistic rarely seen in the media and certainly not well known amongst the public. The fact is, relationship separation is one of the greatest risk factors for suicidal men, particularly when children are involved.”

Many will read that and gasp. Why? Acknowledging and accepting that doesn’t mean we care about women any less. As human beings, men and women both hurt. They both face challenges.

Nicholls continues, “Of those 11 or so men each week, 9-10 will be related specifically to separation and 1-2 will be related specifically to child custodial

Issues. Sadly, we see many and varied claims of numbers being shared by groups representing mothers or fathers but when it comes to suicide while involved in custodial disputes, the truth is lives are lost. These are all lives that might not have been lost if reform was made, and the innocent children of all these families might have seen such tragedy in their lives avoided.”

The truth is, breakups and separations are hard on both men and women. They both can struggle. Their challenges may be different, but both are real.

Until each of the highly polarised camps can see that the problems faced by all are real, we can’t embrace change.

Children deserve the very best start in life possible. That is all of our shared responsibility and it is bigger than a gender war about who is more wronged than who.

Stop the blame game - and let’s invite compassion back to the party.


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