World Stroke Day: Raising Awareness and Taking Action
World Stroke Day, observed on October 29th every year, is a global initiative dedicated to raising awareness about stroke, its prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation. This day serves as a reminder that strokes are a significant public health issue, affecting millions of people worldwide and that education and action are key to reducing its impact. In this article, we will explore the significance of World Stroke Day and the steps we can take to prevent and respond to this life-altering medical condition. We’ll also share the effects having a stroke can have on your mental health.
The Two Kinds of Strokes
A stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when there is a disruption in the blood supply to the brain. This can happen in two main ways:
- Ischemic Stroke: This is the most common type, accounting for about 85% of all strokes. It occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel, cutting off the blood supply to a part of the brain.
- Hemorrhagic Stroke: This type of stroke occurs when a blood vessel ruptures, causing bleeding in or around the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes are less common but tend to be more severe.
The consequences of a stroke can be devastating, ranging from paralysis and speech impairment to memory loss and emotional disturbances. Many stroke survivors face a long and challenging road to recovery, making it crucial to promote prevention and early intervention.
How to Identify a Stroke Using the “FAST” Acronym
To recognize a stroke, you can use the “FAST” acronym as a simple and effective way to remember the key signs and symptoms:
- Face Drooping (F): Look at the person’s face and ask them to smile. Is one side of their face drooping or uneven? Does their smile appear lopsided?
- Arm Weakness (A): Ask the person to raise both arms. Is one arm drifting downward or unable to stay up? Is there weakness or numbness in one arm?
- Speech Difficulty (S): Have the person repeat a simple sentence, such as “The sky is blue.” Listen for slurred speech, difficulty forming words, or an inability to speak coherently.
- The “T” in FAST stands for “Time to Act.” If you observe any of the above signs, don’t delay. Get the person to a hospital as quickly as possible. Stroke treatment options, such as clot-busting medications or procedures, are most effective when administered within a narrow time frame.
If you notice any of these three signs (Face Drooping, Arm Weakness, or Speech Difficulty), it’s time to take immediate action. Call emergency services or 911 and describe the situation. Time is of the essence in treating strokes, and every minute counts.
Strokes and How They Affect Mental Wellbeing
Finally, the impact of a stroke on mental health can vary widely depending on factors such as the type and severity of the stroke, the part of the brain affected, and the individual’s pre-stroke mental health and resilience. Here are some ways in which a stroke can impact mental health:
Depression: Depression is one of the most common mental health challenges faced by stroke survivors. The physical and functional changes resulting from a stroke, such as paralysis, loss of independence, and speech difficulties, can be emotionally overwhelming. These changes, along with the trauma of experiencing a life-threatening event, can trigger or exacerbate depression. Depression may manifest as persistent sadness, loss of interest in activities, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and feelings of hopelessness.
Anxiety: Stroke survivors often experience heightened anxiety due to worries about their health, potential future strokes, and the challenges of rehabilitation. Post-stroke anxiety can manifest as excessive worrying, restlessness, panic attacks, and social withdrawal.
Emotional Lability: Some stroke survivors may experience emotional lability, also known as pseudobulbar affect (PBA). PBA can lead to uncontrollable and exaggerated emotional responses, such as uncontrollable laughter or crying, which may not align with the person’s true emotions.
Cognitive Impairments: Strokes can affect cognitive functions, including memory, attention, and problem-solving abilities. Cognitive impairments can lead to frustration and a sense of diminished self-esteem, as the individual may struggle with tasks they once found simple.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Stroke survivors can develop symptoms of PTSD if they experience flashbacks, nightmares, or intrusive thoughts related to their stroke. The traumatic experience of having a stroke and its immediate aftermath can lead to PTSD symptoms, affecting mental health.
Reduced Quality of Life: The physical disabilities resulting from a stroke, such as limited mobility or the need for assistance with daily activities, can reduce an individual’s quality of life and self-esteem, which can, in turn, impact their mental health.
Social Isolation: Stroke survivors may experience social isolation due to communication difficulties, mobility issues, or changes in appearance and behaviour. This isolation can contribute to feelings of loneliness and depression.
Loss of Identity: The stroke’s impact on an individual’s physical abilities, career, and hobbies can lead to a loss of identity, as they may no longer be able to engage in activities that once defined them. This loss of identity can lead to feelings of hopelessness and purposelessness.
It’s essential to recognize that mental health challenges following a stroke are common and treatable.
World Stroke Day plays a crucial role in raising awareness about stroke, its prevention, and the need for timely treatment and rehabilitation. Globally, each year, approximately 15 million people experience a stroke. These individuals often deal with several challenges such as speech impairment, paralysis, and mental health struggles. Early intervention and support can significantly improve a stroke survivor’s mental well-being. Treatments may include psychotherapy, medication, and rehabilitation services that address both physical and emotional recovery. Additionally, support from family, friends, and support groups can play a vital role in helping stroke survivors cope with the emotional and psychological impact of their condition.
Has a stroke impacted your life and mental well-being? PsyMood can help you find a specialist who speaks your language and understands your experience! You are not alone. Click here to find the best specialist for you.
PsyMood is a digital tool designed to help you find the support you need in the language that you are most comfortable with. PsyMood considers cultural background, geographical location, interests, and personal needs, amongst other factors, to pair you with service providers for either online or in-person therapy sessions.