Caring for Your Mental Health is So Important, Especially When You Have a Spinal Cord Injury
By Jill Koval, Ph.D.
Director, Psychological Services, Shepherd Center Inpatient Spinal Cord Injury Program
Emotional ups and downs are a normal part of everyday life, especially as a result of the stress associated with changes in relationships, finances, health, employment and aging.
For people living with spinal cord injury (SCI), there are two major types of stress. The first is the immediate stress that occurs when the injury first happens. The second is the long-term stress related to the many changes and challenges resulting from SCI. How one copes with this chronic stress can greatly impact successful emotional adjustment.
So how can talking to a mental health professional help?
- The support of a psychologist/counselor can ease the transition from the rehabilitation setting, where the person with an SCI is in the majority, to one’s community, where there may not be others with spinal cord injuries.
- Talking with an objective professional allows a person to vent and say anything without worrying about the feelings, reactions and judgments of family members or friends.
- The likelihood of staying physically healthy is increased by avoiding unrecognized depression and anxiety, which can lead to neglecting one’s health and self-care.
- The risk of developing problems with alcohol, prescription pain medications and illegal drugs through “self-medication” is reduced when one is actively addressing issues related to grief, loss and life change with the help of a professional.
- Counseling can help you to learn more about your own personal strengths and how to use those to help with successful adjustment.
- Your family can learn more about how to help you in the adjustment process and understand their own adjustment, as well.
To find a mental health professional:
- You can speak to your physician and/or a representative at your insurance company.
- Some employers have an Employee Assistance Program, which provides access to mental health professionals at either no charge or a reduced rate.
- To locate professionals who accept patients with Medicare or Medicaid, you can do an online search for your home area.
- Finally, all states have psychological associations, such as the Georgia Psychological Association, that can provide referral information, as well.
- For more information on psychological services available at Shepherd Center, you may call 404-350-7553.
JILL KOVAL, Ph.D., is the director of psychological services in the Spinal Cord Injury Inpatient Program at Shepherd Center in Atlanta. She has worked at Shepherd Center since 1989. Dr. Koval has a doctorate in psyhcology from George Washington University. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 900 inpatients, 575 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year.