Early counselling may prevent depression for patients with a long term illness

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“It is known that all illnesses have a psychological impact. The impact of the particular illness on the person depends on the individual’s perception of the illness as well as its severity.”

The report Twice as likely- Putting long term conditions and depression on the agenda published last year, highlights that depression is two to three times more common for people with long term conditions.

For a majority of patients, accepting that you have a long term condition which will evidently change your life is not an easy process to go through.  As a result of this mental and physical process, some patients may become overly stressed and frustrated which can develop into depression.

The report which was created by a coalition of leading charities including Arthritis Research UK, British Heart Foundation, Depression Alliance, Diabetes UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, also states that approximately 20 per cent of people with long term conditions will develop depression.

During my diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematous (SLE) 12 years ago, I found it difficult to accept that my body was going through a range of changes that I had no control over.

However, the hardest thing post diagnosis was not understanding how to adjust to this new life changing event that was about to take place. Counselling was not offered at the start of my diagnosis, which resulted in me developing depression and even contemplating suicide.

Counselling during early diagnosis can have a positive impact on patients with long term conditions by providing them with a mental care plan for a better quality of life.

Leading charity Diabetes UK has outlined within this report some of the major impacts for patients diagnosed with Diabetes, as a result of a maintaining psychological health.

 “Maintaining psychological health to support people with diabetes to self-manage through education, information and emotional support can help individuals develop the skills to cope with the challenges of daily decision making and improve coping and well-being, counselling.

 Emotional and psychological support services are an essential part of routine diabetes care and specialist services for those with more complex clinical and psychological needs.”

Counselling can have both a positive and negative impact on an individual that has been diagnosed with a long term illness or condition. However, in a majority of cases it results in being a positive experience for the patient especially during early diagnosis.

According to the report, multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferers are almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with a major depression at some stage of their lives in comparison to people within the general population. It is also stated that there is an increased chance of people diagnosed with MS committing suicide.

 “I was very fortunate with the counselling I received as I had someone that I was able to engage with. For me it was a very positive experience that helped me to have a different perspective and control over how I processed this change.”

 MS sufferer Tania Jacobs was diagnosed early last year and told People with Voices that she requested counselling at the start of her diagnosis direct from her hospital bed. However, this immediate service provided was not a service that was automatically offered post diagnosis.

 The way in which the mind processes information is an important factor in determining the decisions we make. However, when a patient is newly diagnosed with an illness or long term condition, their state of mind can become anxious and confused according to Department of Health.

 Despite not being offered counselling when diagnosed, I was still able to overcome my depression with the help of family and friends.

Following a major flare up two years ago, I was immediately allocated an occupational therapist that provided me with adequate support on how to cope with my long term condition. As a result of this form of counselling, I was able to accept my current circumstance for the first in my life which resulted in a more positive perspective on life.

Despite counselling being an optional request, it is important that the need of a counsellor for a newly diagnosed patient is identified by those who are in charge of the patients long term care. This will help to prevent the long term condition from deitorating and the patient from developing additional health problems.

 In the report, the charities highlighted that it is vital that healthcare professionals are being proactive with identifying symptoms of depression following the diagnosis of a long term condition and throughout the entire care of the person.

 The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) have recently implemented a screening processes post diagnosis as one of its guidelines for tackling depression in adults with a chronic physical health condition. This process uses a two question screening tool to identify whether a person is likely to be depressed.

 “If I didn't have counselling already in place before I was diagnosed with epilepsy, I    would have had a mental breakdown. When you have epilepsy you think about all the things you can no longer do. For me it was like bereavement.”

 Before being diagnosed with epilepsy Sophia Rose suffered from a stroke while in her early 20’s. As a result she experienced some brain damage which eventually led to her developing epilepsy.

 “For me counselling helped me come to terms and accept the long term implications of my epilepsy. I can no longer have a bath by myself and instead have showers now. Counselling may not have changed my diagnosis but it helped me come to terms with it a lot quicker.”

 Despite not being offered counselling when diagnosed, I was still able to overcome my depression with the help of family and friends.

Following a major flare up two years ago, I was immediately allocated an occupational therapist that provided me with adequate support on how to cope with my long term condition. As a result of this form of counselling, I was able to accept my current circumstance for the first in my life which resulted in a more positive perspective on life.

Many patients are able to deal with a long term condition or illness without any form of counselling and experiencing the effects of depression. However, for those patients that are not able to process the thought of living with a long term condition, counselling should be suggested at the earliest point of diagnosis in order to enable the patient to have the best set up from the start of their diagnosis.

Yasmin Barracks

About Yasmin Barracks

Yasmin holds a BA in Journalism and is currently in the final year of an MA in Creative Writing. In addition to several years experience in journalism she also writes poetry and is in the processing of drafting her first novel.

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6 Comments On “Early counselling may prevent depression for patients with a long term illness”

  1. Very informative, great work on highlighting the issues that are under looked when dealing with illnesses during and post, also great to mention counselling can come in other forms such as friends and family. Good stuff Yas!!

  2. A great article Yasmin, you’ve raised some very good points. A very informative read.

  3. Great article Yasmin. Thank you for tackling an often trivialized subject and giving us great insight into what may also need to be taken into consideration and treated alongside the treatment for a long-term condition.

  4. so proud of you yas i love the points you made i have been there all along the way with you we had some hard time and would have welcome help along the way of a counseller for when i wasn’t sure if i was doing things right.

  5. A great article Yas, very informative. A lot of interesting points!!

  6. A very pertinent and touching article. Thank you for sharing from your personal experience – cannot be easy to be so open about what must have been painful times.

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