By Tom Gourlay
With the month of November looming, we are reminded of the fanciful season where our brothers, colleagues and friends begin the now-annual ritual of moustache growing.
These men, young and old, begin with wisps of fur on their upper lips which, over the course of that dreaded 30 day period, grows into full-blown moustaches.
And with this begins the flurry of emails going out to friends and family alike, requesting sponsorship, donations and support for what is accepted by all to be the worthy cause of increasing awareness and raising funds to help combat male depression and other male-related conditions.
‘Mo-vember’ as it is commonly known has become an annual event, with many participants across the country, known as “Mo-Bro’s”, forgoing the morning razor over the upper lip for the sake of promoting the cause.
Originally, the month-long event was established to break the silence surrounding psychological conditions affecting men such as depression and anxiety with an aim to help those suffering to know that they are not alone and help is available; that it is not at all un-manly to speak out and seek help.
Amongst ‘boys’ issues, mental health has traditionally been taboo. To think that one is suffering from mental health problems was often perceived as effeminate, and many assumed that they need to simply tough it out and end up suffering alone.
The ‘Movember’ movement has done a great deal of good in breaking that taboo and allowing many men to step out and receive the help they need.
There is, however, perhaps one final taboo in our society; one which needs to be broken to allow those suffering to receive that help which they most desperately need.
It is indeed a touchy subject, one which will likely affect us all in a way, whether it be firsthand or through a family member, friend or work colleague.
Perhaps the taboo is well placed, as it is indeed a sensitive topic, and yet it seems only just to attempt to bring it out into the open, so it can be discussed and so people can look to receive the support and care that they need.
This taboo surrounds the issue of abortion and it is one that prevents anyone from speaking about the physiological and psychological effects it has on both would-be mothers and fathers, though it is particularly women who have experienced most acutely the effects of this phenomenon.
The effects of abortion on women are many and varied. While it does nobody any good to fall into mere generalisation, to provide a truly compassionate, woman-centred approach, one must certainly look at each effect and give it the attention and response it deserves, regardless of where one may stand on the abortion debate.
Physiologically, it seems there are a number of effects which need to be considered, and such effects are not necessarily limited in number.
Maternal death resulting from abortion these days is a rarity, but there are a number of less serious side effects which need to be carefully considered and, some would argue, seriously studied.
Such effects are uterine perforation, uterine haemorrhage associated with cervical trauma, and even what many consider to be growing evidence of breast cancer.
While there is a growing body of literature analysing such effects, these issues do need treatment in an independent, non-partisan way.
Perhaps these issues are more easily dealt with considering their immediacy and the immediacy of treatment available.
What is more pressing are the various psychological responses to the procedure.
Again, the topic at hand is a sensitive one. Those who undergo the procedure have varying experiences and nobody wishes to pass judgement on those suffering from abortion or its after-effects.
However, as with the case of ‘Mo-vember’ and male depression, perhaps these issues need to be brought to light to allow those suffering to deal with it appropriately and receive the care and support which they deserve, rather than be left to suffer alone.
Experiences of the after-effects of abortion can be found to lie at two extremes: at one end some women and men experience relief – relief from the burden or threat of pregnancy; and they suffer little, if any negative emotions.
At the other end are those who suffer severe psychiatric break-downs.
But consider the sheer number of abortions performed globally (it is apparently the world’s most commonly performed surgical procedure).
It means that the number of women suffering this is not insignificant.
In addition there is the host of other reported negative after-effects of abortion including, but not limited to, feelings of unresolved guilt and regret, anxiety, sleeplessness, shame, separation anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and others.
These effects are not even always felt immediately after the event, but sometimes months or years later. The list of possible traumas is considerable.
The cloud of secrecy which surrounds this phenomenon needs to be lifted and the taboo needs to be broken to help these people, women in particular, but also often even the men associated to receive the care and support that they need.
Many working in psychology and counselling attest to this unmet need of post-abortive women and men.
Regardless of one’s stance on the issue of abortion, there is a need to help those who suffer.
The freedom which legal and ‘safe’ abortion was supposed to have won for women globally has instead left many imprisoned in feelings of guilt and shame.
It is time for the shroud of secrecy to be lifted, much as with men’s health issues.
We need to continue to build a truly compassionate society. zNobody should feel that they are left to suffer alone.
Tom Gourlay is a full-time Religious Education teacher in a Catholic school, holds a Masters Degree in Education from UNDA Fremantle and is currently undertaking a Masters in Theology at the John Paul II Institute of Marriage and Family Studies in Melbourne.