Cancer Support Community Addresses Elevated Need for Mental Healthcare with New Mental Health Programs and Initiatives
The expanded resources respond to findings from research on cancer and mental health
Washington, D.C. (January 23, 2023) — Cancer Support Community (CSC), a global nonprofit that provides free emotional support, navigation, and resources to cancer patients and their loved ones, is expanding their robust suite of resources focused on mental health in response to the growing need. These come at a time when the need for mental health care is at an all-time high. CSC aims to expand its reach with these newly developed resources, which build upon existing support services such as their toll-free cancer support Helpline, distress screenings, and online support community MyLifeLine, along with the professionally led support that people can receive at any of CSC’s 190 locations.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States live with a mental illness. These numbers are concerning, and even more so when factoring in the stress of cancer. Clinical depression affects an estimated 15-25% of cancer patients, and anxiety affects an estimated 23%, according to research published in the journal Oncology.
“At CSC, we understand that mental health care and psychosocial support are crucial to whole-person cancer care,” said Alexandra Zaleta, Ph.D., CSC’s Vice President of Research. “Through our research, we want to hear directly from people living with cancer to understand their unmet support needs so that we can continue to improve cancer care.”
Recently, CSC’s Research and Training Institute surveyed more than 600 cancer patients and survivors to learn about how cancer impacted their mental health. According to the study, 60 percent of participants were not referred to mental health professionals for the emotional distress they were experiencing. Further, one in five did not receive the mental health support they wanted. These and other findings from this research will be shared with patient advocates and healthcare providers to shed a bright light on the experiences and needs of patients and survivors. The study was funded by BeiGene, who used the learnings to help develop Talk About It, its new mental health support website for cancer patients.
CSC has prioritized making mental health information accessible to everyone, no matter where they may be. At its many network partner locations, people impacted by cancer have access to free emotional support, healthy lifestyle activities, social connection, education, and referral services. In addition, CSC has partnered with several technology companies to pilot programs using digital formats to deliver support:
- A partnership with Carevive, an oncology-focused health technology company, uses technology to screen patients for symptoms and side effects of cancer alongside CSC’s screening for psychological distress, keeping patients virtually connected to a real-life care team.
- Through a collaboration with Equiva, a healthcare technology company, CSC will provide tablets preconfigured with mental health resources to people residing in rural and underserved communities. A pilot program in Minnesota has launched.
- CSC is piloting two different 12-week app-based mental health interventions for cancer patients who are experiencing depression or anxiety. These programs, developed by Meru Health and Blue Note Therapeutics, teach patients behavioral and mindfulness techniques.
- CSC’s recently launched blog series “Spotlight on Mental Health,” published on its website, will roll out over several months, educating readers on the importance of caring for their mental health and the support that is available to them.
“In this critical moment, it is crucial that we address the mental health needs of people who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis in their lives,” said CSC CEO Debbie Weir. “With our new initiatives, we are able to address a multitude of issues in a multitude of ways, allowing people to get the help they need in a way that works best for their unique situations.”
About the Cancer Support Community
As the largest professionally led nonprofit network of cancer support worldwide, the Cancer Support Community (CSC), including its Gilda’s Club network partners, is dedicated to ensuring that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community. CSC achieves its mission through three areas: direct service delivery, research, and advocacy. The organization’s Institute for Excellence in Psychosocial Care includes an international network that offers the highest quality social and emotional support for people impacted by cancer, as well as a community of support available online and over the phone. The Research and Training Institute conducts cutting-edge psychosocial, behavioral, and survivorship research. CSC furthers its focus on patient advocacy through its Cancer Policy Institute, informing public policy in Washington, D.C. and across the nation. For more information, please call the toll-free Cancer Support Helpline at 888-793-9355 or visit www.CancerSupportCommunity.org.