Anyone who is feeling lonely on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day can join a free online meeting held in the afternoon to reduce feelings of loneliness, which often increase over these festive days .
The Zoom meeting is being organized by a newly established peer-led support group for men isma’abib,
Brian Kennard, who organizes the groups, said, “Anyone who feels they need support and feels alone for any reason — whether it’s because of life situation, mental health issues, addictions — their Welcome to join for free.”
Christmas and New Year’s Day chats will be 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 Welfare, 55 percent of Maltese feel lonely. International research has also shown that cases of anxiety and depression have increased after the pandemic.
Kennard, who is recovering from drug addiction, was encouraged to start isma’abib By Sabine Agius Cabordin, Founder of the Fidem Foundation. FIDEM is supporting peer-led support groups as one of its initiatives.
Kennard explains that he wanted to create a safe space where men experiencing mental health issues could meet, talk and seek support.
People in groups share similar life experiences, which leads to a sense of understanding and empathy. It reduces stigma while empowering people to take control of their lives.
Members often learn to express themselves more effectively, listen actively and give constructive feedback, she said, emphasizing that groups are not a substitute for professional mental health care.
It’s ironic that people feel lonely in an age of high online connectivity
‘I was living in shame’
Kennard, 49, knows what it feels like to face stigma and be looked down upon by society after falling prey to addiction.
“For years I lived in shame because of it, and because of the way society portrayed addicts. Saying it and embracing it has freed me from that shame. I didn’t choose to become a victim of drug addiction, but it’s something I have to take responsibility for,” he said.
But over time he learned that his addiction was not a disease or a choice. This was an attempt to escape the emotional pain caused by childhood abuse.
“I had to endure the trauma. I want no one to have to experience this and I pray for anyone who has to go through what I did. The impact of my early childhood experiences impacted the neurobiology and physiology of my brain, and, also affected me psychologically, the impact of which I am still beginning to truly understand and process. You do not recover from trauma, nor is it possible to turn back, nor is there any solution to it, you simply learn to endure it in a better and healthier way.
Now, after seeking help for himself, he is working to help other men heal their trauma and any issues that may be causing mental health problems. He is doing this in collaboration with FIDEM.
Agius Cabordin explains that even though Fidem was founded specifically to empower women through education, their mental well-being was always paramount. “Expanding to tackle men’s mental health was natural after Fidem’s experience with WeConnect – an online community to address the loneliness and anxiety affecting people during the pandemic.”
While Covid is now the past, feelings of anxiety and the need to connect with people are still strongly felt.
“It is ironic that in an age of high online connectivity, people feel lonely as they fight their demons and yet feel the need to connect. For men, the hardest step is the first: admitting they need help. The next step is to remove the perceived stigma of asking for help. isma’abib “It aims to break down that stigma and provide a safe space for men to seek help without judgment,” she said.
is also setting up a peer-led support group for women called Fidem Beznitna,
Kennard started organizing support groups every Monday about two months ago.
As Christmas Day and New Year’s Day fall on a Monday the support groups will be held at 3pm and on these two occasions they will be open to both men and women.
For more information, visit www.ismahabib.org/ and www.bejnietna.org/.
Anyone who wants to join the online group on Christmas or New Year’s Day can find the link 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