When there is miscarriage in society

THIS week's column is dedicated to a child who left us too soon and just too catastrophically.

T. Nhaveen's untimely death on June 15 created a massive outpouring of sympathy from just about every Malaysian and he brought us all together in passing.
Many questions remain obscured in the background on why and how Nhaveen ended up a victim on the fateful day before he was found unconscious on June 10.

I heard a voice clip of a woman, supposedly the neighbour of the victim where she illustrates in her own simple way how during his schooling years Nhaveen would come home crying and in pain of having been bullied. The tragedy is that Nhaveen didn't know how to fight back, could not retaliate, could not ward off, wails the woman.

It appears from various snapshots of conversations that Nhaveen might have looked a little unmanly and the victimisation was not something that came at the spur of the moment.

His tormentors who killed him knew him well and some of them are boys he grew up with and the taunts must have been going on for years. It hurts me to the core to even think, let alone visualise the kind of torturous life he might have led in his younger days and that he might have suffered in silence.

Society is like a blinded horse and people are compartmentalised into various fixed configurations. Come to think of it, there must have been an odd occasion or two when someone looking "just different" passes us and we tend to ogle a little longer than we should. This makes the end recipient of our noxious or innocent glares hugely uncomfortable and what happens is when a person is indeed different, he or she tends to shy away from the public eye.

We are all creatures of habit and we tend to get attracted, naturally, towards things that may tease our senses differently and from a psychological point of view, it is normal. Having said that, we are creatures of reason as well and we should exercise caution and restraint when we know we might be the cause of another's discomfort and pain.

I have a vague recollection of reading about a mental health for men initiative dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of connecting and encouraging people to reach out to each other. Mental health for men is referred to as the silent crisis that has crept slowly and surely into the minds and lives of more men (and boys).

While the concept of mental health for men is nothing new, comparatively, gender-specific health awareness and research have focused predominately on women. Women have the tendency to band together, and they are more vocal and expressive about emotions and other aspects of their mental health. As a result, women seek health care in much greater proportion than men.

Men tend to view partners and friends as primary health sources. When they do reach a physician, men tend to focus more on physical problems, and are less likely to discuss deeper emotional issues – particularly if the physician is a woman. Perhaps most influential are perceptions around male masculinity. As it is seen unmanly to discuss weakness, mental issues become masked and often go undiagnosed.

Two powerful words with commanding implications: sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is not necessarily physical, and can include any non-consensual act of sexual coercion and/or domination that threatens the physical and/or psychological well-being of an individual.

While most men are well aware of the issues surrounding sexual abuse, once again, the majority of this awareness is focused on women.

The scary fact is that sexual abuse is also largely prevalent in males with some conservative estimates suggesting that one in six males has been sexually abused before age 16, according to reports.

While exact statistics are difficult to confirm, a valid point remains: Sexual abuse in males is a problem – and it can lead to serious mental complications.
Experts say men who are sexually abused often experience problems with gender and sexuality. Feelings of masculine inadequacy, or the reverse, hyper masculinity, are common when dealing with mental health for men. Men may also become confused about their sexual orientation.

Other mood disturbances such as depression or anxiety can lead to devastating physical effects, and men can become subject to denial, leading to stubbornness and difficulty in recognising that what happened was actually sexual abuse.

Increasingly, our society is failing us and vice versa. Nhaveen could have been spared if he had the support from his friends, teachers and family who had recognised that he was "just different" and helped him overcome and cope with his sexual orientation and masculinity.

On the other hand, in creating an inclusive society where equality to live is the right of every one of us, the society needs to be educated and retrained to accept and live with the fact that there are people who are "just different" in a great many ways and it does not give anyone the right to punish such groups or individuals.

May Nhaveen's soul rest in peace.

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