Mental health and melanoma

Patient Guide

After a diagnosis of melanoma, it is normal to have a whole range of different feelings and emotions. These can include shock, guilt, blame, anger, fear, sadness, anxiety and depression.

When you are trying to come to terms with your melanoma diagnosis, remember there is no right or wrong way to feel. Everyone is different and may have very differing emotional responses. Remember that talking about your difficult emotions is not a sign of weakness, but is a step to help you and those around you.

It is important to remember you are not alone, and there are several sources of support for you.

Melanomamates
Melanomamates is a private UK Facebook support group for people with melanoma or relatives/carers of people with melanoma. It has over 3,000 members and if you have a Facebook profile you can request to join. Many people find it a huge comfort to connect with others in similar situations, however, we understand that this route of support does not benefit all as everyone’s patient journey is different. There is always the option to join the group and leave at a later point if your needs are not met.

See below for further sources of support.

Talking to your medical team

Your medical team normally includes a support worker. This is someone who is experienced in supporting people with a cancer diagnosis. Part of their role is to give you practical and emotional support, to help you as a melanoma patient.
It is important to talk to your support worker, and your medical team if you experience difficult emotions. They can help you with information and should be able to request a counsellor or further help.
Some cancer treatment centres have their own counsellors and may have psychologists or psychiatrists as part of the team. This is usually a free service through the NHS, so it is worth enquiring before seeking out a counsellor for yourself.

Cancer Research UK includes a good resource on what to look for in a counsellor if you choose to find one yourself:
https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/coping/emotionally/talking-about-cancer/counselling/how-to-find-a-counsellor?

Anxiety and Depression

It is common to feel sad or low after a melanoma diagnosis. However, if you feel that this is a continuous feeling and experience some of the following for several weeks, you may have depression. Depression is an illness and needs treatment.

Some common symptoms of depression:

  • Continuous low mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feeling irritable or angry
  • Feelings of low self-esteem
  • Lack of energy and tiredness
  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Problems with your sleep (sleeping too little or too much)
  • Problems concentrating

Anxiety can sometimes be a symptom of depression, or having anxiety (panic disorder, generalised anxiety) can also lead to feeling depressed. They are therefore related.

The most common approaches to help alleviate depression include counselling, talking therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with a psychologist or psychiatrist, and drug treatment. As well as talking to your medical team, you can also approach your GP to be referred for a talking therapy and get information about medication.

For more information and support on depression:

Mind
Mind is a mental health charity that provides help and support to anyone who needs it. Whilst they are not a specifically for cancer patients, their site contains lots of useful information on a whole range of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, resources and a helpline.
https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/

Macmillan – Cancer and Depression
Macmillan have good resources for cancer patients, including information on symptoms, coping and medications.
https://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancer-information-and-support/impacts-of-cancer/depression

CRUK
CRUK have several resource pages on cancer and your emotions. This includes lots on information on depression.
https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/coping/emotionally/cancer-and-your-emotions/depression

Lifestyle and mental wellbeing

Other things that have been shown to help both with mood and mental wellbeing are some lifestyle factors and self-care approaches.

Examples include:

  • Improving sleep hygiene and ensuring you get adequate sleep (7-9 hrs a night for most people)
  • Regular exercise
  • A balanced diet
  • Regular social contact
  • Relaxation techniques (like meditation and yoga)
  • Time outside in nature
  • Taking part in hobbies you enjoy
  • Reducing alcohol consumption

Further sources of support:

There are several further sources of information and support available as a melanoma patient outside of your medical team that can help with your mental wellbeing.

Maggie’s centres
These are a network of drop-in centres across the UK for cancer patients, that provide support including counselling, psychologists, alternative treatments like massage therapy and yoga.
https://www.maggies.org

The Samaritans
The Samaritans offer 24 hour, confidential, non judgemental emotional support. People who are stressed, in despair, or who have depression are welcome to contact them.
https://www.samaritans.org

Life after cancer
An organisation that supports adult mental health wellbeing after a cancer diagnosis
https://www.life-aftercancer.co.uk

Headspace
An app providing stress-reduction, meditation and mindfulness tools.
https://www.headspace.com

Calm
An app that aims to improve wellbeing with dedicated features on sleep, stress-reduction, mindfulness, meditation and relaxation.
https://www.calm.com