Coronavirus: Spike in family violence reports prompts group to launch platform for men to seek support

Men who are struggling and stressed out can contact the Men's Helplink via e-mail and Facebook Messenger.
Men who are struggling and stressed out can contact the Men's Helplink via e-mail and Facebook Messenger.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Amid a surge in reports of domestic violence in a time of Covid-19 lockdown measures, a new initiative here will offer men who are struggling and stressed out a platform to receive help and support.

From Saturday (May 16), they can contact the Men's Helplink via e-mail and Facebook Messenger.

The Society Against Family Violence said on Friday that it decided on the initiative after a surge globally in reports of domestic violence amid the pandemic, including in Singapore.

"While there are already many community organisations in Singapore offering assistance to women and victims of family violence, helplines and services dedicated to men are few and far between," said the society.

"There is also growing awareness and recognition that men can also be victims of family violence, but the taboo of not being believed, and being seen as weak prevent many men from speaking up and seeking help," it added.

The society's president Benny Bong noted that there are increased stressors and more irritability during this unprecedented period.

The organisation hopes to help prevent these triggers from escalating to family violence cases, as well as offer support to men who are victims of domestic abuse.

Men may need specific counselling and support, but may be hesitant to seek help, which is why it "wants to make the door open as wide as possible", said Mr Bong, who is a marital and family therapist.

Through the helplink, men can be connected with family violence specialist centres, family service centres, and other organisations.

 
 

The society also has plans to roll out another two initiatives.

One is a men's Virtual Listening Circle, where up to four men can join an anonymous virtual platform for mutual support, facilitated by counsellors or social workers.

The other initiative is group therapy, conducted via video conferencing.

Helplines and counselling services here have seen a surge in demand for their services from women affected by circumstances caused by the pandemic.

Dr John Lim, chief well-being officer at the ACC Institute of Human Services, told The Straits Times that the institute has seen a 10 per cent increase in calls from married women seeking help to deal with stress.

 
 
 

Existing marital problems could be exacerbated by couples being at home and around each other all the time, said Dr Lim, whose institute offers family counselling services.

He added that differences in values and parenting techniques may also create friction.

The Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) said it has received a third more - or a total of 619 - distress calls from women in March this year, compared with the same month last year.

- ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHERYL TEH