From a dad in distress to helping fathers navigate separation

During National Volunteers Week, James Lobbes, a volunteer with Parents Beyond Breakup reflects on his journey from a dad in distress to a facilitator helping other fathers navigating the challenges of separation.

Parents Beyond Breakup is a national suicide prevention charity, solely focused on supporting separating parents and grandparents dealing with custody and child access issues.

“At the time of my separation it was very confronting and emotional and I didn’t know services like the ‘Dads in Distress’ groups existed,” said James.

“The support I received through the group was non-judgemental, creating a safe space where I could share my experiences with other men going through similar challenges. I am extremely grateful to Parents Beyond Breakup and the group I joined – it certainly helped me come out the other side a better person.

My mission now is to make sure more people know these support services are available – for dads, mums and grandparents. It saved a lot of heartache, not only for me but for the broader family network.  They all  benefit if separation can be navigated more constructively with the welfare of children at the centre of engagement and decision making.”

Starting a few years ago as a participant in the peer support group run by facilitators with lived-experience of separation involving children, James is now a volunteer facilitator of the same group.

“After getting back on track, thanks to the support of the ‘Dads in Distress’ group, it was a natural progression to become a facilitator to help as many people as possible along the journey. I do this via a weekly group in the Sydney CBD and it is extremely rewarding.

“I encourage any parent navigating a challenging separation to reach out for support, and for those who have been through it and feel they can contribute in a positive way to others on the journey to think about volunteering,” James added.

Gillian Hunt, CEO of Parents Beyond Breakup says the charity relies on the experience, empathy and contributions of its volunteer base.

“Every year thanks to our volunteers, who are the backbone of our in-person and online groups, we support thousands of parents and grandparents in what can be the most challenging time of their lives.

“We acknowledge the lifesaving work of our passionate and dedicated volunteers who have supported Parents Beyond Breakup for over 22 years.  Our organisation is built on the tears and hopes of every parent separated from their children and on the support and lived experience wisdom of mums and dads who have been there themselves,” said Gillian.

For those attending the group sessions, the self-reported sense of suicidality significantly drops after three sessions (for up to 80% of attendees). Similarly, almost all people calling the Helpline (95%) report a dramatic decrease in stress levels and a heightened sense of connection.

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