This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, so today we want to talk openly about mental health. Unfortunately, mental health problems are still a subject that many people find difficult to address – there is often much more of a stigma than with physical illness.

But mental health problems affect one in four people every year – and they are a very real issue for many people affected by cancer.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, the emotional impact is huge, and it’s not surprising that it can affect your mental health. And, when treatment ends, the effects can continue – mental health problems are one of the most common long-term consequences of cancer. Macmillan research shows that 240,000 people are currently living with mental health problems after cancer, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

To show people they aren’t alone in struggling, we’ve rounded up some recent quotes and discussions from the Online Community on the subject of mental health and coping with your emotions.

Ways of coping

Hiloa on counselling: “I was told by a good friend who is a psychologist that I had to go to at least 4 sessions of counselling before I decided whether to continue or stop. She said firstly it can make things feel worse before they feel better because you take the lid off all the emotions you have been keeping in check as best you can and that is quite a thing to do and secondly that it can take that long to decide if a particular counsellor is for you. 

“It was wise advice. After the first session I never wanted to go back and thought the counsellor was not right for me at all. I felt exhausted completely drained and spent most of the next two days in tears. But I stuck with it as she told me to. After a few more sessions I gained respect for my counsellor, he helped me see myself and my situation differently and I gained a lot from the session.”

Always17 on mindfulness meditation: “It’s is a wonderful thing, I would recommend to everyone.

“It is so easy to practice and how I wish I had known about it years ago. [...] I’ll bet you are also mindful when out in the garden or walking the dog, being aware of your surroundings and the beauty and simplicity. I know my dog walks are much more enjoyable now because of it. It can be practiced anywhere, I have even been known to take a three minute breathing space at my desk.”

Jakk48 on yoga: “I am halfway through 6 months of chemo and find that I am at my least anxious after a session of yoga. The relaxation at the end helps me to focus of breathing and teaches techniques to put worries to one side, not to forget them but to deal with later.”

Butterfly 2212 on reiki: “I have reiki. It’s lovely and it helps me to sleep.”

More discussions from the Online Community

Post-diagnosis depression – myeloma group

I feel like I am going to explode – The Room

Low mood/down days – breast cancer group

Still so traumatised – bereaved families and friends group

Feelings post-treatment – breast cancer group

Mood swings – bowel cancer group

Anxiety – life after cancer group

Counselling – Carers Only group

Mindfullness – breast cancer group

Meditation – emotional issues group

Stress relief and being good to yourself – breast cancer group

Antidepressants – breast cancer group

Resources

Macmillan – Dealing with your emotions

Macmillan – Coping with depression

Mind – practical guides for day-to-day mental well-being

Have you struggled with mental health problems as a cancer patient, carer or bereaved person? How have you coped? Let us know in the comments below.

Read more on our Community News Blog.

Join our Online Community to talk to other people affected by cancer.