Anyone feeling lonely on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day can join a free online meeting organized in the afternoon to alleviate the feeling of loneliness that is often amplified during the festive days.
The Zoom meeting is being organized by a newly set-up peer-led support group for men who have been called Isma’ abib.
“Anyone who feels they need support and feels alone for any reason – whether it’s because of a life situation, mental health issues, addictions – is welcome to join for free,” says Bryn Kennard , which organizes groups.
Christmas and New Year’s Day chats are open to both men and women.
Loneliness remains a major social issue in the community. According to a 2022 survey by the Faculty of Social Wellbeing, 55 percent of Maltese feel lonely. International research has also shown that cases of anxiety and depression have spiked following the pandemic.
Kennard, who is a recovering addict, was encouraged to start Isma’ abib by Fidem Foundation founder Sabine Agius Cabourdin. Fidem supports peer-led support groups as one of its initiatives.
Kennard explained that he wanted to create a safe space where men facing mental health issues could meet, talk and seek support.
In groups, people share similar experiences, which creates a sense of understanding and empathy. It reduces stigma while empowering people to take control of their lives.
Members often learn how to express themselves more effectively, actively listen and provide constructive feedback, she said, emphasizing that the groups are not a substitute for professional mental health care.
It’s crazy that in this era of high online connectivity, people feel lonely
‘I lived in shame’
Kennard, 49, knows what it’s like to deal with the stigma and belittled by society for suffering from addiction.
“For years I lived in shame because of this, and because of the way society portrayed addicts. Saying and embracing it 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 is an attempt to escape the emotional suffering that results from being abused as a child.
“I was traumatized. I hope no one experiences this and I pray for anyone out there who has to endure what I have. The impact of my childhood experiences affected my neurobiology and brain physiology, and, affected me psychologically, the impact of which I am only beginning to understand and process. You don’t recover from trauma, there’s nothing to go back to, nothing to fix, you just learn to deal with it better and in a healthier way.”
Now, after seeking help for himself, he works to help other men seek support to heal whatever caused their trauma and mental health problems. He does this with the support of Fidem.
Agius Cabourdin explained that although Fidem is specifically set up to empower women through education, their mental well-being is always paramount. “Extending to address men’s mental health is a natural follow-up to Fidem’s experience with WeConnect – an online community to address the crippling loneliness and anxiety that has affected people during the pandemic.”
While COVID is now in the past, feelings of anxiety and the need to connect with people are still palpable.
“It’s ironic that in this era of high online connectivity, people feel lonely as they fight their demons and still feel the need to connect. For men, the hardest step is the first one: -admit they need help Next is overcoming the perceived stigma of asking for help. Isma’ abib aims to break down that stigma and provide a safe space for men to seek help without judgment,” he said.
Fidem is also setting up a peer-led support group for women called Bejnietna.
Kennard started organizing support groups on Mondays about two months ago.
As Christmas Day and New Year’s Day fall on Mondays, support groups are held at 3pm and on both occasions they are open to men and women.
For more information, visit www.ismahabib.org/ and www.bejnietna.org/.
Anyone who wants to join the online group over Christmas or New Year’s Day can find the link at Isma’ Habib Facebook page.
Here is the link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/4857692656pwd=OHhUbHRqOE5TR3YzUzdEUUd3MjQzQT09
(Meeting ID: 485 769 2656 Passcode: e9Zzxw)
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Image Source : timesofmalta.com