Most stroke survivors will experience some kind of emotional or psychological change afterwards. But as these effects are hidden, people don't always receive the help they need.

We're working with stroke survivors, the Scottish Stroke Psychology Forum, and the Scottish Government to improve support for people with emotional and psychological problems after stroke.

Paula, 41, from Glasgow, struggled with extreme anxiety following a stroke in October 2021.

'My emotions were uncontrollable at times,' says Paula. 'I would cry for no reason, and although I'd struggled with anxiety before, this was different and scarier. I was terrified to leave the house. It was overwhelming and I needed help.

'The staff in the hospital ward were empathetic and helped me to understand the changes I was going through. I was put on a waiting list for psychological support and referred to a mental health nurse. The nurse called twice and just listened to me, which is what I needed most.'

Paula's family and friends were also a fantastic support. 'Just having someone there, even if we didn't talk, was a comfort,' says Paula. 'Someone to tell me I was doing well, or to remind me to eat, was reassuring - I felt less alone.'

With their help, and her own determination, Paula is working through her anxiety. She has good and bad days, but has gradually re-built her confidence enough to return to work, meet up with friends and do some of her hobbies again.

'I took little steps when I felt ready to take them, rather than dwelling on what I couldn't do. The first time I walked my dog on my own after the stroke was a huge step for me. Crafting helped me focus on something other than anxiety. And I talked about my worries, because once they're out of my head, they seem smaller.

'As things improved, I came off the psychological support waiting list, because I thought there might be someone worse off than me who would benefit from it.'

Paula is helping us to raise awareness and encourage Scotland's health boards to deliver on our recommendations for improving support services.

'Lots of stroke survivors don't get the support that I did, in hospital or at home,' says Paula. 'I want people to understand the impact of hidden effects, like anxiety, and for Scotland's health boards to act to ensure that people can get the mental health support they need.'

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Stroke News magazine

This article is featured in the winter 2022 edition of our magazine, Stroke News. Subscribe to our future editions available in print, on audio CD, or via email.

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