Cancer is a word that is not taken lightly by anyone. Whether it is the fear of the disease itself or the idea that we are all vulnerable to it, almost everyone fears it. However, despite this paralyzing fear, rarely do people tackle the mental distress that comes with being diagnosed with it or knowing someone who suffers from it.
And as October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is important to shed light on the mental distress that comes with it. In fact, studies have shown over and over again that providing mental health support can increase the survival rate of cancer patients. And yet, rarely do you see mental health being discussed in breast cancer awareness sessions and workshops.
The reality of things is that our body cannot recover if our mind is suffering.
Studies have even shown that emotional and mental distress impacts 1 in 3 cancer patients. The most common patients experiencing mental health issues are breast cancer patients. Not only that, but breast cancer patients who were exposed to psychological support had 45% lower risk of their cancer coming back.
With the importance of taking care of our mental health apparent, it is imperative that we normalize the conversation and integrate mental health care into our lives.
Here are some ways that you can mentally support a loved one through their diagnosis:
– Ask them straight up about their mental health
Sometimes the best thing we can do is ask people how they are feeling. Showing them that you understand that they might be mentally distressed can help them feel validated.
– Ask how you can help
Whether it is running errands for them, offering a shoulder to cry on, or just listening, asking them how they want to be supported can be a great way to keep you both connected.
– Let them feel their feelings
So many of us do not know how to act when someone is not feeling their best. And that is completely okay. Sometimes what we need to do is just let them feel their feelings. Do not try to cheer them up and suffocate them with toxic positivity. Instead, just allow them to feel the ups and downs.
Crying and letting their sadness, pain, and frustration out is an important part of healing.
– Ask for professional help
There is no shame in asking for professional help. Make sure that you vocalize that sometimes seeking mental health professionals is necessary to keep pushing through.
At times we all need a little push that tells us there is no shame in asking for help. Hold their hand throughout it all.
– Find a support group for them, and even yourself
Many hospitals and clinics have support groups for cancer patients. And as some patients might be hesitant, it is important that we step up, learn about these support groups, and encourage our loved ones to join them.
Whether these support groups are for patients themselves or for their families, joining them can help us feel less alone.
– Make sure you are supported
You know how the saying goes, “you cannot pour from an empty cup”. That is why you need to make sure that you acknowledge your feelings and validate them.
Watching someone you love go through something as difficult as cancer can have a great toll on anyone. Therefore, make sure you seek the support you need so that you can have the strength to keep supporting your loved ones.
At the end of the day, cancer causes significant distress for both patients and their families. And knowing how to ask for help, find our own coping mechanisms, and be kind to ourselves is essential to ensuring our own mental well-being and that of others.