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Chronic illness can make reaching out for mental health help harder
Published Wednesday, January 30, 2019 12:46PM EST
Reaching out for help isn’t always that easy, especially for those facing debilitating physical challenges.
“It was really hard because it wasn’t what I dreamt for myself,” says Sharlene Kapp, who was 30 years old when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“All I heard was MS and I started to cry, and that was devastating because I was fairly young and people don’t understand.”
The mother of two began to lose her ability to walk and now spends her days in a motorized wheelchair.
“It’s so limiting, especially when you can’t just drive anymore. The car is sitting there all day and I can’t just get in it and go to the grocery store,” she says.
Dr. Sarah Morrow, a scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute, studies MS and says she hears stories like Kapp’s daily from her patients.
“It’s a devastating disease because it’s not only the physical part but also the invisible symptoms such as fatigue, cognition, depression and anxiety…just the overall coping with the changes they are having in their lives.”
She says many of her patients struggle with feelings of isolation and loneliness.
“From…the time you are diagnosed with MS until the end of your life there is a point prevalence of depression of 50 per cent, so one in five people will suffer with depression in their life.”
But there’s help for those who need it. Around 4,000 people made their way to the Canadian Mental Health Association Crisis Centre last year alone and staff say a large number of visits were from people who are facing health challenges.
“We do know that people who require assistance with daily living or instrumentals of daily living are at higher risk of suicide and suicidal behaviour and it’s the isolation, the withdrawing behaviour and not wanting to burden people,” says Lynda Cowie from the CMHA Middlesex.
Cowie says the key is for people to reach our for help the second they need it, something Kapp says has helped her cope, as well as just always trying her best to have a positive outlook
“If I let myself get down, I’m afraid I will never get up. So I try to stay positive all the time.”