Caring for your mental health and wellbeing
How spinal cord damage can affect mental health
Spinal cord damage can have a ripple effect on almost every aspect of your life, including, housing, employment, relationships, and hobbies, some things may require a change in order for you to gain your independence. Although experiencing a spinal cord injury or related physical disability affects each person differently, almost everyone will need to prioritise and take care of their mental health and emotional wellbeing.
An illness or an injury as traumatic and profound as a spinal cord injury can often leave those experiencing it with feelings of loss. This feeling of losing something can manifest in a few ways:
- Loss of your former life. Your body has changed and how you live life has also changed.
- Losing a sense of identity. Often who we are and how we see ourselves is attached to our bodies and how they perform.
- Loss of what could be. The future may feel unclear and uncertain, which creates a lot of anxiety, fear, and anger
These feelings can be difficult to manage and come to terms with. Adjusting to your new life with an injury will certainly take some time both physically and mentally. However, with the right supports and attitude you may be able to get back to doing the things you loved before your injury and will be able to continue having new experiences.
What to expect in the first year
The first year following your injury will likely be one of the hardest. It’s when your family, your body and you will go through the most changes and adjustments. It’s also the year of ‘firsts’. Your first birthday, Christmas, Valentine’s Day etc. following your injury. These celebrations can bring up feelings of loss and grief all over again, and you might sometimes feel like you’re back at square one. However, with the right supports and attitude you’ll continue to grow and develop and in the process – discover your ‘new normal’.
Accessing counselling and support services will likely help get you through these firsts in a positive manner and start to build your new life with new traditions and new ways of doing things. Peer support can also play an important role for people in their first year post-injury
Support within the spinal cord damage community
The most important thing to remember is you are not alone. Many others have experienced spinal cord injury before you and have faced similar challenges, both mentally and physically. Peer support is available through Spinal Life Australia. Our team members understand the impacts of spinal cord injury first-hand because of their own journey and can offer support to you at every stage of your own journey back to independence.
Our Peer Support team pride themselves on providing honest and helpful advice, with no question being too personal or off-limits. Click here to learn more about the services the Peer Support team provide.
While our team members are based in Queensland and Perth, there are also two private Facebook groups we manage that provide safe spaces for discussions, questions, and reviews relevant to the spinal cord injury community. These pages are open to anyone with a spinal cord injury, but closed to the wider community. To join the Peer Support Spinal Life Australia Facebook page click here. If you would like to join Spinal Chatter Facebook Group (which is focused on WA), please click here.
If you would like to get in touch with one of our team members direct for a one-on-one conversation please click here to submit an enquiry.
Additional services and resources
Mental Health Care Plan
A mental health care plan allows anyone with a Medicare Card access to Medicare rebates for a number of sessions each calendar year that can be used to access the services of a psychologist, social worker, or occupational therapist. Your GP will start by referring you for a number of sessions to your chosen health service. For additional sessions, once the first sessions have been used, you can seek a new referral from your GP. To obtain a mental health care plan, make an appointment with your GP who will be able to assist you with identifying services that best suit your situation and reflect your goals.
For more details on the mental health treatment plan process click here
If you’d like to access some immediate mental health care advice or assistance, contact one of the agencies below:
Lifeline Australia – call now 13 11 14
- Lifeline services, including text and online chat
If your life is in danger call 000 immediately.