A spinal cord injury is a life-changing event. It affects every part of life, from work, hobbies, exercise, relationships, self-esteem and a person’s overall sense of self. Recovery and adjusting to a new way of life is not an easy process to deal with. Research shows that the overall prevalence of depression in various spinal cord injury studies can be as high as 78%. Here we will discuss the importance of mental health care following a spinal cord injury.
How Spinal Cord Injuries Affect Mental Health
When a spinal injury occurs, it changes every part of life as you know it. Simple everyday tasks will need to be relearned. Depending on the severity of the injury, some tasks may no longer be able to be done independently. This can have a profound effect on a person’s mental health and cause feelings of depression. Life can feel overwhelming.
Relationships can change. People may treat the injured person differently. People may stare. These experiences can steadily erode self-esteem and identity, worsening mental health.
In addition to this, chronic pain, something many spinal cord injured people experience, is associated with worsening mental health over time.
How poor mental health can impact physical health
Many people are reluctant to admit they need mental health support and continue to suffer in silence. Yet, poor mental health can have a profound effect on physical recovery.
Poor mental health can:
- Reduce motivation to follow through with exercise and treatment regimens.
- Increase the likelihood of physical illness such as infections.
- Affect how a person behaves and their relationship with doctors and caregivers who are helping them with recovery.
Treatment options for poor mental health
There are many different ways to approach poor mental health for spinal cord injured people.
Treatment options can include:
- Medication – available and effective but not always necessary, especially not before trying some of the other options.
- Lifestyle changes – healthy diet, exercise, sleeping well, etc.
- Support groups – no one understands the struggles of life like other spinal cord injured people.
- Trying to keep doing activities that brought pleasure before, even if that means finding a new way of doing them.
- Psychotherapy – learn coping skills and identify problematic thought and behaviour patterns.
- Occupational and physical therapy – improving physical capabilities and relearning new ways to work around the injury can improve confidence greatly.
When to seek mental health care
With such a high likelihood of a spinal cord injured person developing some level of depression or anxiety following their injury, it makes sense to be proactive. It’s much harder to treat symptoms of depression than to try and prevent it in the first place. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, staying socially engaged, remaining motivated to engage in physical rehabilitation and connecting with people in the same situation can all go a long way towards improving and maintaining the mental health of a spinal injury survivor.
Support at home
Eximius live-in care provides a range of care and support packages ranging from simple companionship to complex care needs. If you or your loved one would benefit from support or companionship at home, please get in touch for an informal chat to see how we can help.