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World Mental Health Day – Coping with a Stoma

10th October 2019

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Today is World Mental Health Day, a day for mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. On this day every October, thousands of people come together to help raise awareness of mental illness and the major effect it has on people’s lives worldwide.

Unfortunately, mental health illnesses aren’t uncommon amongst those with stomas, which is why we’ve written this article to try and give our tips for coping mentally with a stoma. 

Read on to find out more about managing your mental health as an ostomate, as well as some common myth busters that might just make you feel a bit better about your stoma.

Understand that your feelings are normal

Firstly, if you’ve recently had your stoma surgery, you may be feeling low and anxious about the situation. This is completely normal! Having a stoma is a big lifestyle change and it will take a bit of time to get used to.

So, our first tip is to not hold back any emotions, after all, keeping things to yourself is only going to make it worse. Remember that it’s okay to cry, to feel worried and to have low self-esteem initially. Letting out all of your emotions and allowing yourself the time you need to adjust is key to help avoid any mental health issues further down the line.

Talk to your family and friends

There are always people around you who are willing to listen and want to help you, whether it’s a friend, family member, neighbour, colleague or your stoma care nurse, go and speak to them! Open up about how you’re feeling and give them the best chance of helping you when you need them. 

Chatting to others about how your feeling can go a really long way to helping you cope with your stoma, particularly in those first few months when you’re adjusting to the new lifestyle.

There are also stoma support groups which you can join, these can be a big help as you’ll be able to chat with other people who are in the exact same position as you are. You can find your nearest support group here.

Listen to the advice of your nurse and talk to them too

Our next tip is to be confident in the information that your stoma care nurses give you. If you’ve got any doubts at all about anything related to your stoma or anything is causing you to worry, speak to them about it. After all, they are specially trained and have the experience to help you adjust to living with a stoma

Try to focus on the positives

Finally, a major part of ensuring your mental health doesn’t suffer as a result of having a stoma is to remind yourself of the positives. Your stoma has relieved the symptoms you were suffering with, making you feel more comfortable and allowing you to move forward with your life. Having a stoma has potentially saved your life so be proud of it!

While it’s normal to feel self-conscious and aware of your stoma, you need to remember that the vast majority of people won’t even be able to tell that you have one.

Mythbusters

We thought this would be a great opportunity to try to bust a few common myths that can make ostomates even more anxious and self-conscious… 

Leaking bags… 

Stoma bags are specially designed using the most flexible materials and really strong adhesives to minimise the possibility of any leaks. So rest assured that as long as your stoma bag is applied properly, leakages are actually very rare.

Smells and odours…

One thing that many ostomates worry about is whether their bag will smell. The truth is, bags have filters which let out the air and neutralise any odour. Therefore, the chances of anyone smelling your stoma or even realising you have one are very slim.

Will people be able to see my stoma bag?

There are ways of making your stoma bag more discreet, with sizes varying from maxi to mini. For example, you could opt for a smaller stoma bag, choose clothing that covers your bag or even wear a belt which holds the bag close to your tummy for added security. 

The main thing to remember is to use your support network – your family, friends, your stoma nurse, local support groups can all emphasise and provide the support you need. If you’d like to read more about this subject, you can find information on MIND, Colostomy UK, Ileostomy Association and Urostomy Association.

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