November 19th 2016

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY QUT discrimination case exposes Human Rights Commission failings

CANBERRA OBSERVED Triggs in the gun: loaded section 18C to get overhaul

EDITORIAL First Brexit, now Trump - it's the economy, stupid!

ANALYSIS What is possible to a Trump Whitehouse

MANUFACTURING Foreign ownership no sole reason for breakdown

ENVIRONMENT Billionaires bankroll U.S. anti-coal campaign

LIFE ISSUES Abortion trauma link to male suicides

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Commission's "Get Pell" campaign fails on facts

GENDER AND POLITICS Pronouns, ordinary folk, and the war over reality

NAVAL MILITARY HISTORY A WWII encounter that deserves remembrance

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS China builds Great Wall in the South China Sea

MUSIC Dylan's Nobel prize causes song and dance

CINEMA Humanity within inhumanity: Hacksaw Ridge

BOOK REVIEW Bill is $500 billion and counting

BOOK REVIEW Arguments and facts: the man who remade Russia

POETRY Sunset at the Perth War Cemetery

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Abortion trauma link to male suicides

by Julie Cook

News Weekly, November 19, 2016

“I’ve put the gun down now!” were the words of a young man to the pregnancy crisis phone counselor. He had been involved in three abortions and thought himself unaffected until one girl carried to term and delivered.

Holding a gun to his head, he phoned a pregnancy crisis centre. With extraordinary good fortune, the counselor was also a trained volunteer for Abortion Grief Australia (AGA) and capable of recognising the gravity of his psycho-emotional pain.

Tragically, however, most suicide counselors are not trained to identify abortion trauma or how to respond. The vast majority are not even aware that abortion can be an issue for men.

Although the research in this area is limited, the data available suggests that men can experience similar reactions to abortion as women. For women, evidence is increasingly linking abortion to psychiatric illness, depression, substance abuse, suicide, relationship problems, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Male suicides can be both directly and indirectly related to abortion.

One of the biggest predictors of male suicide is relationship breakdown. Unless work is done towards resolution, abortion trauma frequently destroys current and future relationships. Furthermore, unresolved anger, a typical feature of abortion-related trauma, is frequently an underlying factor in domestic violence. Evidence is emerging that domestic violence and suicide (in both men and women) are also correlated.

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.

Self-destructive and bizarre behaviours are a hallmark of unresolved abortion grief. With powerful feelings of self-hatred and anger, many women provoke conflicts in their interactions with others, particularly in personal relationships. They may create or fuel emotional dramas that both serve as a distraction and an opportunity to release pent-up emotions.

In 2011, Australian researcher K.D. Dingle reported in The Asian Journal of Psychiatry that young men whose partners aborted were twice as likely to abuse cannabis and hard drugs, and suffer depression than men who had never fathered a pregnancy.

One mother of four confided on the AGA crisis line that she had an abortion because of her concern about the impact on her husband of having another child, when he was experiencing depression.

After the abortion she was so hurt and angry that she continually “lashed out” at her husband. He eventually committed suicide. Even though this had occurred some years previously, she was still bitter towards her deceased husband and disconnected from what he might have suffered.

AGA has engaged with men and male community services and is finding that male suicides relating to abortion are common.

Last December, one of AGA’s professional counselors was contacted by police regarding a 16-year-old boy whom they had only just saved from suicide by “two seconds”. It turned out to be abortion related.

He had been doing well at school, but after his girlfriend’s abortion and their subsequent breakup, he dropped out of school and became homeless. He also told the counselor of a mate’s suicide because of abortion.

With the support of the counselor who had just completed AGA’s training, the 16 year old returned home. He now has an apprenticeship and is doing well.

As this case shows, when abortion trauma is recognised and dealt with appropriately, the situation can change from being toxic to being manageable.

Before his suicide, “Brad” and his wife sought help from their local priest. Sadly, the priest, with no training in abortion trauma, was set up to fail.

“Brad” and his wife had been happily expecting their fifth child. Then the visiting obstetrician pressured them to have a foetal abnormality test. Before the results returned and being “absolutely” convinced of abnormality, the obstetrician pressured the couple to have an abortion. The test results returned with no abnormality detected when it was too late.

Brad’s wife had a breakdown and was placed on suicide watch. Brad committed suicide and four children’s lives were shattered. A happy family was destroyed in a matter of days.

AGA wrote to all state Australian Medical Associations regarding this tragic case, but got no response.

Lower-level managers of a government-supported suicide prevention crisis line have recognised the need for their counselors to have training in abortion grief, but this has failed to eventuate. Even more concerning are reports of the screening out of volunteer phone counselors who mention they are aware of abortion trauma.

The public discussion of abortion-related mental illness is taboo in the media and within the medical profession, with a flow-on effect to allied health professions. This is despite a 2011 meta-analysis of nearly 900,000 women published in The British Journal of Psychiatry finding 10 per cent of mental illness in women was abortion related.

However, grassroots service providers and young university students are welcoming AGA and its initiatives.

Julie Cook is National Director of Abortion Grief Australia Inc.

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