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Mental health is critical when facing a dread disease diagnosis, treatment, or bereavement

A diagnosis of cancer or another dread disease is a devastating blow, not only for the patient but for their family and loved ones. The diagnosis itself, the trauma of going through treatments and the bereavement of losing someone all take their toll on mental wellbeing. Depression, anxiety, and mental illness frequently go hand in hand with physical illnesses like cancer. It is an isolating experience, and often people struggle through these feelings alone, but this does not have to be the case.

There is help available with programmes designed to support families on the cancer journey. There is also financial support available from elements such as gap cover, where value-added benefits may cover items like trauma counselling, which can be a lifeline in times of great need. Looking after your mental health is essential, both for fighting disease and coping with the trauma of diagnosis and subsequent loss.

Evy Michalopoulos is the Founder and CEO of Machi Filotimo Cancer Project, a non-profit organisation that raises awareness about cancer, its symptoms and treatment, and helps to guide cancer patients and their families as they navigate this difficult journey. She believes that sound mental health is absolutely critical, both for patients fighting cancer and for families who are on this journey with a loved one or have already experienced a loss.

“Especially when a diagnosis or a loss is sudden and unexpected, feelings of anger, grief, frustration and guilt are common, and all of these emotions come into play at various stages, often in waves. We often feel the need to be strong, which typically involves locking our feelings away, but this frequently leads to mental health issues like depression and anxiety, and feelings of being overwhelmed,” Michalopoulos says.

“There is also a persisting perception that seeking help means you are weak, but nothing could be further from the truth. Mental strength is essential in fighting diseases like cancer, and developing this strength requires support. Professional help can be hugely valuable in helping you to process grief and give you the tools you need to deal with challenges in a constructive way, whether you have lost a loved one, are going through treatment, or have someone close to you who has received a diagnosis,” she adds.

In situations like this, it helps to know that you are not alone. Organisations like Machi Filotimo are there to help patients and their families and loved ones, providing a vital support system. Alongside this support, it is also recommended that people in situations like a cancer diagnosis also seek professional mental healthcare treatment. However, often the cost of this can put people off, especially when they are already facing potential medical expense shortfalls relating to cancer treatments.

“This is where gap cover is essential. Not only does gap cover give you peace of mind that many of these shortfalls will be covered, but certain providers also have value-added benefits. For example, Turnberry offers Trauma Care Cover, which covers the cost of trauma counselling consultations with a registered healthcare provider after a critical illness diagnosis or the death of an immediate family member,” explains Tony Singleton, CEO at Turnberry.

Knowing that care is available and that finances will not be a hurdle in receiving the treatment you or a loved one needs, whether for physical or mental health, can significantly reduce the massive stress that critical illness and dread disease create. This then gives more freedom to focus on fighting the disease itself, rather than worrying about paying for treatments.

“The best advice I can give people is to make sure they have the options available to explore, to make better choices that can lead to better outcomes. Having gap cover in place facilitates many more choices, but people need to be open to asking for and receiving help, especially when it comes to mental well-being. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, and there is help available. Reach out, get as much information as you can, and take advantage of what is there and available. You do not have to walk this journey alone,” Michalopoulos concludes.

About Turnberry Management Risk Solutions

Founded in 2001, Turnberry is a registered financial services provider (FSP no. 36571) that specialises in Accident and Health Insurance, Travel Insurance, and Funeral Cover. With extensive experience across healthcare and insurance industries in South Africa, Turnberry offers unsurpassed service to Brokers and clients. Turnberry’s gap cover products are available to clients on all medical aid schemes, as they are independently provided and are therefore transferable in the event of a change in the client’s medical aid scheme. Turnberry is well represented nationally, with its Head Office based in Bedfordview, Johannesburg with Business Development Managers in Cape Town and Durban. The Turnberry Team’s focus on outstanding client service comes from having extensive knowledge and experience in the financial services sector and is underwritten by Lombard Insurance Company Limited. Lombard Insurance Company Limited is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (FSP 1596) and Insurer conducting non-life insurance business.