A STROKE survivor from Risca has shared how the condition left him struggling with his emotional and mental health.

Peter Kemp, 59, is one of 70,000 stroke survivors in Wales, and a new Stroke Association report has revealed more than three-quarters of sufferers have battled depression, anxiety, a lack of confidence and even suicidal thoughts after their stroke.

South Wales Argus: Peter Kemp, from Risca.Peter Kemp, from Risca.

When Mr Kemp had his stroke two years ago, he had help from a psychologist immediately afterwards. But when the sessions ended "quite soon" afterwards, Mr Kemp said he felt lost and fell into a depression.

“I finally admitted to my wife how I was feeling and had emergency treatment and was prescribed anti-depressants,” he said.

“I was finding it difficult to control my emotions and couldn’t see how I could go on."


— 'Hidden effects'

Based on a surveyed sample of stroke sufferers in Wales, the Stoke Association's new report found the overwhelming majority (94 per cent) reported at least one cognitive effect – meaning something that is not immediately obvious, such as changes in emotions or mental health – after their stroke.

And 76 per cent of stroke survivors, the report found, face a battle with depression, anxiety, a lack of confidence, mood swings or even suicidal thoughts.

Despite these common post-stroke conditions, 29 per cent of stroke survivors said they hadn't received enough emotional support to help rebuild their lives.

"These figures are extremely concerning, and show a desperate need for support to cope with the hidden, and often overlooked, effects of stroke," said Carol Bott, director of the Stroke Association in Wales.

"Far too many lives have been destroyed by stroke, and no-one should be left feeling suicidal.

"The evidence highlights how important it is that families, friends and health professionals who support stroke survivors understand what it means to live with these ‘hidden effects’, ask how people are feeling, and provide appropriate emotional and psychological support.”

— Finding common ground

For Mr Kemp, meeting other stroke survivors proved helpful in his recovery, with activities like golfing sessions, run by the Stroke Association, making him feel relaxed.

“I now know I’m not alone in feeling how I do, and I want others to feel that too," he said. "I’m working with Aneurin Bevan [University] Health Board to develop a five-week course for people with brain injuries, who can share how they feel with a psychologist and another stroke survivor who understands what it’s like.”

Ms Bott said the Stroke Association was working with the National Assembly's cross-party group on Stroke to put forward a Stroke Delivery Plan, setting out how stroke care should look in Wales.

"We want to ensure the plan supports health and care services to make improvements from prevention and treatment, right through to rehabilitation and long-term support after leaving hospital – including psychological support for stroke survivors,” she said.

— Other findings

The Stroke Association report also found:

● Fatigue was the most common hidden effect of a stroke, experienced by 85 per cent of survey respondents. Unlike normal tiredness, fatigue doesn’t get better with rest; people often lack the physical or mental energy to take part in everyday activities.

● 81 per cent of stroke survivors said they had problems with their memory.

● 79 per cent of stroke survivors reported problems with concentration. This could include being unable to follow a television programme or read a book.

● 76 per cent of stroke survivors experienced mental health issues following their stroke, including a lack of confidence, anxiety, depression, mood swings or suicidal thoughts.

— Help is available

But there is cause for optimism – With time and the right support, the Stroke Association said, stroke survivors begin to feel better.

96 per cent of stroke survivors surveyed said they felt like they were on the road to recovery.

For more details of support available in your area, contact the Stroke Association helpline on 0303 303 3100.

If you’re struggling to cope, you can contact the Samaritans free any time from any phone – even from a mobile phone without credit – on 116 123. This number won’t show up on your phone bill.

Alternatively, email jo@samaritans.org or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch, where you can talk to a trained volunteer face-to-face.