In a news article shared by SingHealth, stroke is Singapore’s fourth leading cause of death, comprising 10 per cent to 12 per cent of all deaths. Its prevalence is estimated at 3.65 per cent for adults above 50 years old. It is also the largest cause of long-term physical disabilities in Singapore. With a rapidly ageing population, the burden of stroke is expected to increase exponentially in the near future.
Stroke is a life-changing illness which sometimes leads to not only physically disabilities but also language disabilities, and in some cases, cognitive impairments. Due to stroke, many survivors become dependent on the care and assistance of a caregiver in his/her activities of daily living such as showering and walking. Following this, stroke survivors go through a long phase of grief. The loss that stroke survivors have to contend with includes physical limitations, financial insecurities and a loss of roles and identities, just to name a few (UK Stroke Association, 2013).
SPD’s Specialised Case Management Programme (SCMP) organised its first stroke support group for 11 stroke survivors recently. The session, conducted weekly from 29 September to 27 October 2017, was co-facilitated by senior social worker, Angela Chung, and case management officer, Juriah Ismail, who introduced expressive arts therapy to the group.
Expressive arts therapy brings about self-awareness, change and healing. It helps individuals to express themselves in a visual and kinaesthetic way rather than through words alone. Participants are able to express their experiences in a less direct and confrontational way through arts as it serves as an alternative language, a symbolic way of accessing the unconscious (McCarthy D., 2008).
A range of topics were covered in the five-week session which included possible lifestyle changes due to stroke, coping strategies that are available, and identifying the strengths and support network. The support group created an opportunity for stroke survivors to get to know each other, learn from one another and thereby forming an informal network of support among them. The safe environment allowed the participants to share deeply on the challenges of stroke, and their hopes and aspirations for the future.
One of the participants, Mr Pua Kia Fong, is eager to join the next round of the stroke support group, possibly as a facilitator. His advice for all stroke survivors:
“It is not the end of the world. It might be difficult now but don’t give up. You are still alive and there might be something better for you in the future. It’s all about the mentality.”
Article contributed by Ms Juriah Binte Ismail, case management officer at SPD
McCarthy, D. (2008). Speaking about the Unspeakable – Non-Verbal Methods and Experiences in Therapy with Children. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Oh, D. (2012, October). Stroke in Singapore. Retrieved from https://www.singhealth.com.sg/DoctorsAndHealthcareProfessionals/Medical-News/2012/Pages/Stroke-in-Singapore.aspx
Stroke Association. (2013). You’re Not Alone [PDF file]. United Kingdom: Author. Retrieved from https://www.stroke.org.uk/sites/default/files/You’re%20not%20alone%20A5_Web.pdf