Comment: Stroke impact is more than just physical

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More than 12,000 people have a first stroke every year in Scotland and there are over 120,000 stroke survivors. The impact of a stroke can be profound and long term – it can affect ability to walk, talk and think and it can also affect emotional and mental health.

While the physical impact of stroke is widely recognised and, usually, support is provided, the Stroke Association’s Feeling Overwhelmed report, published today, shows the emotional impact of stroke is less understood or supported.

It presents findings from a recent Stroke Association survey of more than 2,700 stroke survivors and carers across the UK. The findings are powerful and concerning; showing the scale and range of emotional and mental health challenges experienced by many people affected by stroke. Some 65 per cent of stroke survivor respondents said they experienced depression and/or anxiety as a direct result of their stroke; 75 per cent said they lacked confidence and 55 per cent experienced fear of recurrent stroke and feelings of anger.

Unpaid carers of stroke survivors also play a vital and demanding role. Over half of carers who responded said that the emotional impact of stroke was by far the hardest thing to cope with. Nearly half of respondents said their personal relationships were strained following stroke and three out of ten said their relationships ended as a result. Despite these challenges, nearly half of respondents said they did not receive information or practical advice on coping with the emotional impact of stroke.

The Stroke Association is calling for improved emotional and mental health support for stroke survivors and their carers. This should include better understanding and skills among health and social care providers and better information for stroke survivors and carers.

The Stroke Association plans to establish a new, mental health and stroke “improvement “ community, to enable people affected by stroke, health and social care providers, voluntary organisations, researchers and others to share knowledge, skills and resources to help achieve improvements. We hope you will join us.

• Maddy Halliday is director Scotland of the Stroke Association