There are more than 360,000 new cancer cases in the UK every year. Cancer doesn’t affect the physical body but also mental health. Being diagnosed with cancer is a life-changing event and anything that drastic can affect one’s psyche. Even after treatment, things aren’t expected to go back to normal, so patients are still concerned by illness, just in their mental state.
During or after treatment, 33% of cancer patients will experience mental health problems such as depression or anxiety disorders.
When you’re diagnosed with cancer, it just doesn’t affect you but also the people around you: your family and friends. It impacts with fear, isolation, low self-esteem and loss of independence.
Half of the patients interviewed said that they reach a “false summit” after treatment most likely from no available emotional support after surgery.
Imagine leaving a strictly managed clinical environment where you spent a lot of time then suddenly return to a healthy life. They felt like they had “fallen off a cliff edge.”
Of patients interviewed, 49% said they had no emotional support of any kind about managing their mental health through cancer, 66 percent that said they had no idea at all about the probable mental health dilemma at the finale of treatment.
When asked about the kind of support they wanted, 60% said one-to-one counseling; 42% said better access to information; 30% said peer support groups, and 51% said better communication from service providers.
Everyone experiences cancer differently. There is no right way to relate to it especially if they have and you don’t. Their moods can vary significantly from anger, anxiety, denial, depression, guilt, loneliness, and sadness.
It’s most important to deal with the feelings by confronting them and not bottling it up until it explodes. You start with acceptance, boldly confront and try to handle them. It is only then that your mental health can begin recovering correctly.
The Head of Mental Health Foundation Scotland, Lee Knifton, said “Our research shows that people are left alone about cancer’s effect on mental health, but if they are given the right support at the right time, they will have control over their mental and emotional wellbeing as they go through cancer. The post-treatment is important for them to receive emotional support yet this is the time they receive the least. People shouldn’t be left cope on their own. Cancer affects many people differently, and once treatment is finished, they can’t just go back to their lives before cancer. That’s why a person to person interaction is important like one-to-one counseling and peer support groups. These can help overcome their fears and anxieties to ease them back to their normal lives. Solving it early will prevent it from going to a clinical condition, so we are calling person-centered support to be offered through all phases of cancer.”
It’s essential to seek professional help especially when you can’t manage. Cancer is an extreme event in one’s life that can trigger powerful psychological reactions such as anxiety and depression.
Often, you will find social interaction with a medical professional and above all, with relatives and friends. You can also seek help from a Cancer Society of Finland’s (CSF) advice service and where the professional oncology nurses will assist people who have cancer and the people they love.
They also have support persons who are cancer survivors and have volunteered themselves to help patients and their families emotionally during the different stages of cancer.
William Steele from Ayrshire is a breast cancer survivor. He said, “One of the themes of getting breast cancer illness and by being a guy was the amazement of the people I said – as if it was something different to every other man. This took its toll when trying to explain my situation to colleagues and friends – it was difficult. After treatment, I felt loss since I didn’t have to go to hospitals and doctors so often. I felt abandoned. People think things go back to normal after cancer, but the consequences of the treatment can be huge. One-to-one counseling helped me go through the trauma I have been through, but it was only a few years later that I was offered a way to some psychologists in the Ayrshire and Arran area.”
More and more people are getting affected by cancer, and mental health is a growing issue that needs attention. Having a reliable support system is the key to dealing with mental health problems. Support groups seen on television might seem comedic these days, but that’s a strong recommendation when one is going through any spiritual struggle. And most importantly, professional advice is necessary. Never self-diagnose. It’s okay to feel like you’re falling off a cliff edge after something drastic like cancer but seeking professional help will get you back on the ground.