Purple House Online Children's Art Therapy
Help us to support Cancer patients during this pandemic.
Due to the effects of Covid19 on our health services, many Cancer services will not return to normal until the end of the year.
With your help, we need to start preparing now for the mental health needs of cancer patients. We must ensure that children and teenagers living with cancer have access to the support they need at the time when the issues present, if not we risk bigger mental health problems as they grow into adulthood.
The World Health Organisation says that current Covid19 pandemic is testing the emotional and mental health resilience of many and it will lead to an increasing demand for mental health services. A recent study by Maynooth University and Trinity College (2020) found that 41% of the respondents reported feeling lonely and a further 20% reported feeling anxious.
Similarly, research published in the Lancet documented an increased prevalence of mental health symptoms such as low mood, anxiety and insomnia in cancer patients during this pandemic.
There is no doubt that Covid19 has brought us some very challenging times, along with increased levels of worry, anxiety and uncertainty, however Cancer patients are living with extraordinary challenges and stresses.
Every day at Purple House Cancer Support Centre, a front-line community-based organisation dealing directly with cancer patients, we are hearing about the anxiety, fear and loneliness caused by Covid 19. As Cancer patients are in the high-risk category of contracting Covid19, they must be extra careful, which has resulted in isolation among many patients.
Due to the ongoing Covid restrictions, many patient’s social interactions are limited, they must attend their hospital appointments alone and often they cannot see family members in their hour of need. Social relationships have ended abruptly which has resulted in feelings of loss, and funerals are not how they used to be. This has a direct impact on the grieving process and may lead to mental anguish later.
Cancer does not stop during Covid19. Sadly, people are still receiving the news that they have Cancer. Our telephone support line has seen a huge increase in calls from people who are very anxious about having to go into hospital for surgery or treatment. They are worried about getting Covid19; however, they also realise that they cannot defer their appointment or surgery.
Once the restrictions were announced last March, we established a Covid19 Cancer Support Team at Purple House. We knew we needed to respond quickly. Basically, this involved moving all our services from a physical setting to an online, telephone, and remote setting to keep both patients and our staff and volunteers safe.
Our Counselling service has moved to telephone and video counselling. This ensures patients receive vital psychological support wherever they live.
Patients now participate in our programmes like The Stanford Cancer Thriving & Surviving Programme from their hospital bed or from the safety of their own home and they regularly use Zoom to attend our Cancer support groups and classes such as yoga, creative writing, relaxation, Ukulele lessons and the Purple House Choir.
During Covid19, the demand for our food distribution service has increased tenfold. This is due to unemployment and the need for Cancer patients to self-isolate at home. Cancer patients cannot risk visiting the supermarket for groceries to feed themselves or their children; they cannot afford to get Covid19. Thanks to the generosity of the public, our volunteers are delivering food to Cancer patients daily. For many patients they visited, this was their own human contact of the day.
The impact of Covid19 on children living with Cancer is huge. Every child needs one good adult. The one good adult concept is thought to be a strong protective factor in a child’s well-being and mental health, however when mum or dad is ill with Cancer, the one good adult may be absent. This can lead to a child feeling unsafe, which is why community-based psycho-oncology services for children must be resourced. At Purple House we support many children who are cancer patients and as well as those who have a family member with Cancer. Our child and adolescence counsellors work with patients to support their emotional and mental health wellbeing during this time.
Central to being able to support Cancer patients during Covid19, was our ability as an organisation to react quickly and adapt our services quickly. We worked with the HSE to advise them our support plans and we notified all the Community Call Helplines in Ireland of our services. The credit for this goes to our amazing and committed team of Counsellors, Therapists, Support Workers and volunteers. In the space of a week, most of our physical services were provided online.
In my role as Manager of Purple House Cancer Support Centre in Bray, I have seen first-hand the outpouring of positivity and goodwill from our communities. Everyone coming together to help each other, and the most vulnerable in our towns and villages. Daily, we receive phone calls from people who have been temporarily laid off from work, offering their time to volunteer to help us to deliver food hampers to Cancer patients who are self-isolating or offering to drive patients into hospitals for their Chemotherapy or Radiotherapy treatments.
Thank you for helping us to achieve this.
The mental health effects of Covid19 will be with us for a very long time. There is a level of anxiety that Cancer patients experience, however when you add the anxiety that Covid19 brings, it can be very distressing.
Naturally during Covid19 all our fundraising events have been cancelled. At Purple House we rely heavily on fundraising to keep our doors open to support the 1,500 families who use our services each year. If you can help, please visit www.purplehouse.ie/donations
If you need Cancer support, please visit www.purplehouse.ie or call Purple House on 01-2866966. Our doors are open.