One of the issues that has been brought to our attention since we started our show is sickle cell disease.
In the following article, Heather Gordon, a registered social worker at the Toronto General Hospital, talks about the challenges that one faces when they have sickle cell disease and the resources available for those who have sickle cell in the Metropolitan Toronto area.
PSYCHO-SOCIAL STRESS AND SICKLE CELL PAIN CRISIS BY HEATHER GORDON, Social Worker, Toronto General Hospital
Psycho-social stresses can sometimes lead to a Sickle Cell Pain Crisis. This includes stresses that we face in our day to day lives. These stresses may include pressures and conflicts from work, home, spouses, children or parents, money problems, housing issues, job loss, feeling lonely and depressed, unresolved trauma, death of loved-ones, relationship breakdown, being sick all the time, emotional and physical abuse and so on.
ADDRESSING PSYCHO-SOCIAL STRESS
One of the most effective ways to deal with psycho-social stress is to reach out. Some of the ways to reach out include joining a therapeutic or self-help support group or meeting regularly with a community social worker, therapist or a psychiatrist. These are often seen as stigmatizing and people are sometimes afraid of being judged or labelled as being “weak” or “crazy” for reaching out for therapy.
In fact, seeking help attests to your sense of strength and resourcefulness. When you take the time to seek help or support you are caring for yourself and can better care for others around you, such as your children or your parents. In fact, if you have less stress, you will have fewer Sickle Cell Pain Crises!
A research study of psychological interventions for pain, adherence to medication and outcomes among patients with sickle cell disease showed that patients who participated in a social support group reported improvements in pain management and shorter recovery time from pain crises.
A second study which included a combination of social support plus counselling showed that patients who attended a support group and meetings with their counsellor had fewer Emergency Department visits. Also, patients who stayed with the group longer had fewer psychological symptoms and perceived less interference from their sickle cell disease in their daily lives.
WAYS TO COPE WITH PSYCHO-SOCIAL ISSUES
You can better cope with psycho-social stresses if you have good support around you.
• Speak to your social worker, doctors, guidance counsellor, career counsellor or someone at the counselling centre at your college or university about stresses in your life.
• Call your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counsellor.
• Reach out to friends and loved ones.
• Join a sickle cell support group or organization.
• Get involved in your community.
• Attend church regularly, if you are connected to one.
• Don’t stay isolated or keep stress to yourself.
Taking good care of yourself also helps you deal with psycho-social stress. Some important things that will help are:
• Eat well
• Resolve conflicts
• Manage your finances
• Do moderate exercise
• Make time for fun
• Sleep well
• Limit or avoid alcohol consumption
• Avoid smoking
• Always drink water frequently.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT FROM A SOCIAL WORKER
In the Red Blood Cell Disorders Program at the Toronto General Hospital, my role includes looking at the types of stresses in your lives and your need for services. I can meet with you to address any social issues and together we can develop a plan to better manage your stress.
I know how helpful community services can be to you and I will act as a resource to help you access social, legal and financial supports to meet your needs. In addition, I am available to help and support you when crises happen. One of my key goals is to assist and encourage you to advocate for yourself.
For those in the GTA, who may have/may have not lost loved ones in your lives, a therapeutic support group for patients in the Red Blood Cell Disorders program will be started in September 2011.
If you wish to contact Heather she can be reached via phone at: (416) 340-4800 ext. 3866
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God bless, peace, be well and keep the faith,
Vibe and Vegas
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