Chronic pain can range from uncomfortable to unbearable, but unless you suffer from it, it is difficult to know how it can affect a person’s life.
The Chronic Pain Educational Support Group in Ladysmith hopes to raise awareness about people’s suffering during Chronic Pain Awareness Week from Nov. 5-10. Part of their efforts will be to honour a former group member who took her own life when her pain became too much.
“She had been coming to our group for a number of months, and she was really struggling … she did reach out to the medical community but she didn’t get the help she needed and she resorted to taking her own life,” said Stephanie Blumensaat, the founder of the support group. ”People with chronic pain are more likely to commit suicide. That’s just the effort to try and prevent it or lessen that.”
Due to the complex nature of chronic pain, some medical professionals are not equipped to handle such patients. Sufferers often have to be their own advocates, and it can be a long and overwhelming journey to seek help. That is where the support group stepped up to help.
“I was in need of some emotional support and I felt isolated and alone in the experience, so I started the group in July 2011,” said Blumensaat who suffers from chronic back pain. “We try and share resources binders where we all contribute things about therapists or whatever and articles about general pain topics and the medications you need.”
Blumensaat hopes that after Chronic Pain Awareness Week, people will be more sensitive to chronic pain sufferers. She has often felt that people misunderstand her condition because she looks healthy.
“People don’t understand chronic pain because it’s invisible … people judge us because we look OK, but don’t judge people by their external appearance,” she said. “And just to have the general public to understand the impact it has on our lives. It can be an isolating experience to live in chronic pain.”
As part of Chronic Pain Awareness Week, Blumensaat will write letters to local medication professionals informing them about chronic pain and the needs of these patients.
The group will also donate to the Ladysmith Community Health Centre a piece of art that was painted by their member who committed suicide. The painting will hang in the hallway in her memory. Everyone is encouraged to attend the Chronic Pain Educational Support Group meeting on Mon., Nov. 19. For more information, contact Blemensaat at firstname.lastname@example.org.