Half of cancer patients receive no mental health support

Cancer support web

The Mental Health Foundation has called for improved support services for those overcoming the emotional turmoil of fighting cancer

12th April 2018 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Half of people with cancer receive no mental health support while living with the condition.

The Mental Health Foundation has said that the emotional problems that arise as a result of cancer are too often sidelined.

A study by the charity has found that mental health problems often arise at the end of treatment, when there is often little or no support available.

One in three people with cancer will experience a mental health problem such as depression or anxiety disorders before, during or after treatment. Emotions such as fear, isolation, loss of self-esteem and loss of independence were found to have been experienced by patients.

Half of people interviewed by the charity said they received no support or advice from health services about managing their mental health through cancer, while two thirds said they were not informed at all about potential mental health problems that could arise at the end of treatment.

Lee Knifton, head of Mental Health Foundation Scotland said that cancer can have a profound psychological, as well as physical, effect.

He said: “Our research shows that too often people are left in the dark about cancer’s impact on mental health. But if people are given the right support at the right time they would have greater control over their emotional wellbeing as they go through cancer.

“The post-treatment phase of cancer is an especially volatile time for people’s mental health, yet people receive the least support at this stage. The false summit that people describe is testament to the lack of support and discussions about mental health.”

Asked about the kind of support that would have improved their mental wellbeing during and after treatment, 60% said one-to-one counselling, 42% said better access to information, 30% said peer support groups, and 51% said better communication from service providers.

The charity is calling for person-centred support to be available at all stages of cancer, from diagnosis to post-treatment and beyond. It has warned that although there is increased recognition of the impact of mental wellbeing during cancer, the support network is often patchy and inconsistent across Scotland.

William Steele on the effect breast cancer had on his mental health

One of the abiding themes of having breast cancer and being a man was the amazement of so many people when I told them – as if I were something different to all other men. This took its toll, particularly when trying to explain my circumstances to my colleagues or friends – it wasn’t easy.

I was affected by anxiety at various stages of my cancer, including pre and post diagnosis.

After treatment was over, I did feel, strangely, a certain loss when I didn’t have to go to hospitals and doctors so often. Once your cancer treatment finishes everything finishes – you feel lost and abandoned.

The consequences of the treatment were horrific. Many people assume that once the cancer is treated things go back to the way they were. But many people live with the consequences of the treatment which are sometimes huge.

One-to-one counselling services provided by a local charity certainly did help to overcome the trauma that I had been through but I had to access that service myself. Only years later was I offered access to psychologists in Ayrshire and Arran.

People have different emotional support needs at different times during their cancer journey and we need to do more to help people at every stage of cancer.

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