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Experiences Shared

Nat

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Several decades after he was sexually abused, Nat suffered a mental health crisis.

His experiences gave him insight into the provision of services and he has suggestions for ways they could be more responsive to individual needs.

Nat had a religious upbringing and his parents were actively involved in their Protestant church.  

He does not want to go into detail about the sexual abuse he experienced, but says that it happened when he was about seven or eight years old. There were two or three perpetrators who were also involved with the church, and they sexually abused him several times.

Nat felt trapped by his family circumstances. He says ‘I had to go to church, I couldn’t get out of it. I understood something was wrong but I didn't feel I could take myself out of the situation’. He adds that he certainly did not feel he could tell his parents, because of their involvement with the church.

It was not until Nat was in his 40s that he felt the impact of what had happened. ‘You think you've boxed it off but it will come back to bite you.’

After an argument with a friend which made him feel highly agitated and emotional, Nat decided to seek help and advice. He says ‘I knew I needed help because I had a sense of not being in control of myself’.

He saw a psychiatrist and a counsellor, and it was suggested he may have PTSD. 

Nat continued having counselling, and says this has made a ‘huge difference’. He feels very lucky that his employer provided some financial help for this, and that he could self-fund some of the sessions he had. 

He was several months into therapy before he raised the sexual abuse he had suffered. ‘It may have been protection, or maybe I hadn’t realised the relevance.’ 

More recently Nat had a mental health crisis and a concerned friend called the emergency services. He was admitted to a secure unit for a short spell, and while he emphasises that he is in no way critical of the individual clinicians, he says the process was very flawed.

He describes long delays and poor communication in an environment that felt threatening. He adds that he was passed from one division of mental health services to another, and he felt guilty about wasting resources.

Nat wants to emphasise the importance of providing immediate one-to-one support for people suffering with mental health issues, particularly those who don’t have family or friends for support. 

He also would like it to be very clear where people can get emergency help if they are in crisis, so they are not passed around the system, and for staff who work with victims and survivors to be trained in good communication skills.

Nat has agonised that other children may have been hurt by the people who abused him. He adds ‘You read a lot about churches being more aware of abuse. I want to hope it is more difficult to get away with it now’.

Nat has a child and says that through counselling he has learned ‘I can be a good dad’. He also finds comfort in ‘people and places I think of as sanctuary’ and does public service work that he finds fulfilling.

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