When more than 80 per cent of Canadian inmates are male and with a significant number of those inmates reporting incidents of childhood trauma, it’s hard not to link the two. But where do you begin combating a problem so deeply rooted?
The Men’s Trauma Centre is chipping away at the bigger issue by offering 15 free trauma counselling sessions for men or those who identify as men, aged 16 to 30, as part of their Youth Crime Reduction Program aimed at helping individuals avoid re-offending.
The non-judgmental and confidential service is funded through civil forfeiture with space to help 30 individuals “ease their relationship to trauma.”
Paula Greene, executive director of the centre, says on average about 280 men come through their doors seeking help every year. Due to the number of stereotypes surrounding men and abuse, she says men usually delay reporting their abuse for decades and develop their own coping methods which can lead to mental health issues, addictions or sometimes even involvement in the criminal justice system.
“They tend to come to us with layers and layers of complex trauma that they’ve been living with for years,” she says.
Originally the program was aimed at men between the ages of 16 to 25 but after getting numerous requests from various community organizations to make exceptions for older men, the centre increased the age cap. Jeremy Addleman, the project’s manager and one of eight therapists, says through trauma-informed therapy, real change is possible and he’s seen it first hand.
“With good trauma therapy, 15 sessions can be majorly healing — to the point of a breakthrough — but often a lot of these guys want to come on for more [sessions] and many have continued on their own dime,” he says. “A lot of them are struggling financially, and for them to make that decision, it means a lot to us and shows how much they want this.”
Both Greene and Addleman agree that it’s been a challenge to navigate combating men’s trauma in the wake of the Me Too movement, adding there’s a general sentiment that men are either less deserving of receiving help and an unwillingness to acknowledge men as survivors of trauma themselves. They believe a collaborative approach is needed if any headway is going to made in tackling these issues.
“It has to be men, women and children,” says Greene. “You can’t just work with two points of the triangle, otherwise you’re not going to end anything.”
The one-hour sessions address the individual’s trauma along with any other issues they are having in their life that go hand in hand with trauma.
“If all they know is crime life, sometimes our reactions are the first time they realize what they’re experiencing is violence or traumatic,” says Addleman.
Green and Addleman hope to see men’s issues come to the forefront of the public’s attention in order to make real progress on the big picture problem. When asked what he’d like the public to know, Addleman hesitated before answering confidently — “Change is possible, trauma is a wound and wounds can heal.”
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