Anxiety and depression are common after stroke. As many as a third of stroke survivors may suffer from depression, and psychological problems are common amongst carers. In the past few years, there has been a focus on the importance of psychological health for stroke survivors and their families/carers. However, there are currently few long-term family-centred treatment options to help people manage the psychological consequences of stroke.
Mindfulness, the practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, is an increasingly popular technique to help people manage their psychological health. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses use meditation to increase people’s levels of mindfulness and teach skills to help self-manage anxiety and depression. Although some people find MBSR helpful, research has shown that many do not complete a full course.
The research team have worked with people affected by stroke to make changes to the MBSR course that might help people affected by stroke follow the whole course. One change they have made is to train stroke survivors and family members/peers together so that they can support one another through the course.
This study will test the new course, called HEADS:UP. It will be divided into two parts. First, the researchers will first recruit a small number of people affected by stroke to take part in the HEADS:UP course. This part of the study will help the research team to understand if they need to make any more changes to the course before they test it in a larger group of people.
Then a larger number of people affected by stroke will take part in the HEADS:UP course. Participants will be randomly allocated into one of two groups: one group will receive the HEADS:UP course straight away, while those in the other group will start HEADS:UP after a wait of 6 months.
At this stage, the researchers will be looking at how well they can recruit people affected by stroke to take part in the study and how many people complete the course or drop out before the end. They will look at how well participants can complete the research questionnaires (which are used to measure things like anxiety and depression) before and after the study. Participants will be asked to keep a record of their home HEADS:UP practice so that the researchers can see how much participants practice individually, away from sessions. They will also look at whether HEADS:UP has an effect on participants’ anxiety and depression.
The results of this research will help to improve the HEADS:UP course and plan a larger study to find out if HEADS:UP helps people affected by stroke to self-manage anxiety and depression long-term.