For people with heart defects, mental health support is essential to care at every age
More mental health support that is integrated into their routine health care is advised to help them achieve optimal health and quality of life, according to a new American Heart Association scientific statement published today in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
An American Heart Association scientific statement is an expert analysis of current research and may inform future guidelines. The Association's 2011 scientific statement on a related topic addressed developmental delays and other neurodevelopmental outcomes in children with CHD.
However, this is the first statement to summarize the psychological and social challenges from childhood through adulthood and to review age-appropriate mental health interventions to improve quality of life.
According to the new statement, children with more complex congenital heart defects have a 5-times higher rate of receiving an anxiety diagnosis in their lifetime compared to children without congenital heart defects .
Despite the evidence of emotional, social and behavioral difficulties, only a small fraction of children with congenital heart defects are offered or participate in mental health assessment or treatment. For adults with congenital heart defects the rate of experiencing a mood or anxiety disorder in their lifetime is about 50%, compared to about 30% for adults in the general population.
According to the statement, approaches to mental health care may encompass self-care strategies, such as relaxation techniques and hospital-based or online support groups; psychotherapy such as talk therapies for individuals, couples, families or groups; and medication therapy where a medical team can determine appropriate, heart-safe medications for depression or anxiety.
The statement strongly advocates for the integration of mental health professionals within CHD specialty care teams. Integrated mental health care normalizes emotional reactions to health challenges, reduces stigma, improves timely access as soon as health challenges arise, and provides coordinated care across the multidisciplinary health care team.
Researchers said the goal of this statement was to foster psychologically informed care that empowers people with congenital heart defects and their families and provides emotional support. They would like mental health assessment and support to be part of comprehensive care for all people with congenital heart defects rather than a special service that is offered only in some places or special circumstances.
Reference: "For people with heart defects, mental health support is essential to care at every age"; AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION, Circulation DOI: 10.1161/HCQ.0000000000000110.
B.Sc Life Sciences, M.Sc Biotechnology, B.Ed