Better care for all: emotional support and wellbeing
People with lung disease are at higher risk of mental health problems. The fight for breath, lack of mobility and isolation can lead to anxiety and depression.
Patients should be offered mental health support or coaching to support them. This should be a part of all treatment plans to make sure health care professionals are aware. Patient support groups such as the British Lung Foundation’s Breathe Easy network, can make a big difference by putting people in touch with those who share similar experiences of living with lung disease.
A personal view: the mental impact of living with a lung disease
Julie Reynolds has lived with asthma since childhood. She was treated for pneumonia 18 years ago and has recurring chest infections, requiring treatment in hospital. She has also other chronic conditions, including adrenal insufficiency.
Over the past couple of years, the impact of her condition on her daily life has been severe, mentally as well as physically. Julie, who lives in Surrey, has been housebound for extended periods and struggled emotionally with the limitations imposed by her condition.
“You have to make a mental adjustment to what you are able to do,” says Julie. “You have to find your value again, which is a real challenge.” Julie says she has had suicidal thoughts in the past but feels that she has turned a corner. Julie works for the disability charity Scope as Stories Officer and appreciates the profound difference of having a supportive employer.
Julie strongly recommends joining a support group to be able to talk with people who share your experiences. “It does help to know that you are not alone and you can learn from the way other people respond to challenges.”
People with pre-existing mental health problems are also at increased risk of lung disease, in part because of higher smoking rates. Yet they are less likely than those without mental health problems to get the best support. We want to see more being done so that people with mental health problems receive the same care and support as everyone else.
Measure of success
Data need: Patient-reported experience of whether they have been supported with a mental health problem to be measured in the proposed new patient survey, with a baseline established within one year.