For any human being, the prospect of imminent death is too much to handle since our entire existence is centred on self preservation. That's why, accepting a cancer diagnosis is never easy. The mental agony is exponentially worse when the cancer is of a third-grade metastatic nature. Anyone who read actress Sonali Bendre's heartfelt confession about her medical condition can only imagine what she must be going through. A few months ago, even actor Irrfan Khan made a stunning disclosure about his "rare disease" on social media, which turned out to be a neoendocrine tumour.
Mental health professionals who counsel cancer-stricken patients know that it takes a lot of mental fortitude to tide over the problem. Dr. Parul Tank, consultant psychiatrist at Fortis Hospital, Mulund says, "Serious illnesses that occur, especially suddenly, have the gravest effect on the mental health of the person diagnosed with the disease, as well as their family members. Dealing with the disease is the epitome of survival as it can weigh the strongest minds down." She recommends three important modes of therapy to help cancer patients and their families deal with such diagnosis without equanimity.
1 Individual Therapy
In this type of therapy, the mental health professional addresses the patient who may be going through a depressive phase on account of his or her illness. It can make them despondent and even self-destructive. Dr. Tank says, "This type of therapy helps a person address personal issues, talk to the therapist and identify the links between the illnesses. This therapy helps the person to change their self-depreciating thoughts and adapt and replace ways to evaluate their world."
2 Trauma Therapy
A cancer diagnosis can prove to be a traumatic experience for both the patient and the family. It may even come to resemble the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Dr. Tank recommends therapies like eye movement densensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR). It's a therapy for reducing some of the impact of the trauma. "EMDR can help in reducing the anxiety associated with the illness. Therapies and psychiatric medication help deal with the depression and the anxiety that comes with the cancer diagnosis," she says. The doctor however adds a caveat that patients shouldn't think of it as a treatment for cancer.
3 Family Therapy
The emotional support a family can provide a cancer patient can make a world of difference in his or her recovery. The diagnosis can make a person feel alone and terrified. That's why, the kin needs to rally around the patien, giving all the support and reassurance they can. "Family therapy is very important for people with mental illness. When they are in a self-deprecating zone, they require family and love ones beside the to assure that everything is fine and that things would work out. Family could help them recover faster by speaking about the progress they show and how they are improving in terms of dealing with the illness when the patients themselves can't."
Although the patient looks up to the family members for emotional support, often the kin themselves experience emotional upheavals while dealing with a loved one's illness. One way to calm frayed nerves and to instill some strength in each other is to meditate.
Dr. Tank says that it is important that caregivers and family members should give the patient all the support from the moment the diagnosis is drawn. Family members should watch out for early signs or symptoms of emotional distress, anxiety, depression, which can negatively impact the patient. "Support from family, friends and peers can help the patient adjust better and instill a sense of hope," she says.