What is Mental Health?
Sometimes when we hear the words ‘mental health’ we associate them solely with mental illness. Mental health is for everyone though. And just like our physical health, what keeps it optimal changes from person to person.
Sometimes we can be going about life without even having to think about our mental health because we naturally engage in activities that help look after our well-being. On the other hand, some people might have had experiences, or might have natural sensitivities that make their mental health more vulnerable to fluctuation.
Whatever our situation, our mental health is something that is unique to each of us and our circumstances. It tends to ebb and flow depending on what happens in our lives, and how those circumstances interact with our individual temperaments.
Our mental health is something that is unique to each of us and our circumstances. It tends to ebb and flow depending on what happens in our lives.
How a cancer diagnosis affects mental health
We recognize that having a child diagnosed with cancer involves enormous adversity. Naturally, such an experience poses a threat not only to your child’s physical health, but to their mental health and the well-being of everyone in your family.
We sometimes hear from families that the everyday things they once did to take care of themselves, are no longer achievable given the demands of cancer. Additionally, we’re living through a global pandemic, and this causes concerns for the oncology community that other people don’t have to consider.
The aim of this article is to acknowledge some of the barriers that oncology families face in maintaining their mental health. It will also offer some suggestions of what might help alleviate some of those barriers.
This article will be focused on general mental health and wellbeing and will not address diagnosed mental health conditions. However, we do recognise that people who are affected by childhood cancer might experience more serious mental health concerns as well. If you would like to discuss your mental health in greater depth, please feel welcome to reach out to a Redkite Social Worker.
Cancer, COVID-19 and Mental Health
We all have feelings of stress and anxiety that rise and fall depending on what’s happening in our lives. These feelings can be helpful when they prompt us to respond to an event effectively.
But that doesn’t mean they feel good. Our mental health is hardest to maintain when conditions are rough and unpredictable. And when we’re met with events that are outside of our control, it’s a lot harder to take action that will help us feel calm again.
Oncology families know these feelings all too well, having been thrown into the unexpected chaos of a cancer diagnosis. Routines previously relied upon might no longer be available, or not as effective under more challenging conditions. Not only that, but there’s now the added layer of COVID-19. From unstable work conditions to heightened health risks and everything in between; COVID-19 represents a host of new stressors for oncology families.
I’d like to acknowledge that oncology families are often busy beyond imagination. Parents tell us it’s hard to allocate any time to their own wellbeing when their child is suffering. With that in mind, health professionals (including myself) might seem out of touch when offering tips for how to manage your mental health and wellbeing. However, oncology parents also teach us that they’re the most effective tool their child has in navigating the cancer experience. And for that reason, good stewardship is important.
Below are a few ideas of what might help to maintain your own mental health through cancer and COVID-19.