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Mental Health and Spinal Cord Injury: Navigating the Challenges and Finding Support

Living with a spinal cord injury (SCI) can be a challenging experience for many people. I've experienced that first-hand. Not only do we have to adjust to a new way of life, we may also experience mental health issues as a result of the injury. In this blog post, I will discuss the relationship between mental health and SCI and provide some tips for managing these challenges.

The mental health challenges associated with SCI can vary depending on the individual and their specific injury. However, some common issues that people with SCI may experience include depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These mental health challenges can be caused by a variety of factors, including the physical changes that come with SCI, the emotional impact of the injury, and the social isolation that can result from the injury. I personally recommend going into therapy for the first few months. EMDR therapy helped me to cope with trauma by creating emotional distance to the traumatic memory. I also am aware that later in life I may need to follow-up on this but it surely has been very helpful.

One of the most significant physical changes that can occur after a spinal cord injury is the loss of sensation and mobility. This loss can be particularly difficult to come to terms with, as it may mean that the individual is unable to do things they once enjoyed, or that they have to rely on others for basic activities of daily living. This loss can also impact the sense of identity, leading to feelings of frustration, anger, or helplessness.

The emotional impact of the injury can also contribute to mental health challenges. People with SCI may experience a range of emotions, from shock and disbelief to grief and sadness. They may also feel overwhelmed by the challenges of adapting to a new way of life, and the uncertainty that comes with living with a chronic condition. While everyone copes with loss differently grief is a process which takes a lifetime. With ups and downs I now recognize the moments I need to focus more on my mental health.

Social isolation can also be a significant factor in mental health challenges for people with SCI. This may be due to physical barriers, such as difficulty accessing public spaces or transportation, or due to a lack of understanding or accommodation from others. As a result, people with SCI may feel lonely or disconnected from their social networks, leading to feelings of depression or anxiety.

Managing mental health challenges after a spinal cord injury can be challenging, but there are steps that can help with SCI can take to promote our well-being. Here are a few tips:

  1. Seek support: Whether it's through therapy, support groups, or connecting with other people who have SCI, seeking support can help you feel less alone and better able to manage your mental health.

  2. Practice self-care: Engaging in activities that promote relaxation and stress reduction, such as meditation or yoga, can help you feel more centered and calm. Also leading an active lifestyle and eating healthy are key in taking the best care of yourself.

  3. Set realistic goals: Setting goals that are achievable and meaningful can help you feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment, which can be helpful in managing depression and anxiety.

  4. Stay connected: While it may be challenging to maintain social connections after a spinal cord injury, it's important to stay connected with friends and family, as well as to find new ways to engage with the world. Online there is a big community and there are more people out there with SCI than you might think.

  5. Advocate for yourself: Whether it's asking for accommodations at work or advocating for better accessibility in your community, advocating for yourself can help you feel empowered and in control.

Living with a spinal cord injury can be a difficult and isolating experience, and it's essential to prioritize your mental health. We all struggle sometimes. By seeking support, practicing self-care, setting realistic goals, staying connected, and advocating for yourself, you can take steps to manage mental health challenges and lead a fulfilling life after SCI.

Photo by Danique Regterschot

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