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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

Big White Wall helps family caregivers break through their isolation

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December 3, 2018, by Paul Cavanagh, caregiverexchange.ca

Many seasoned family caregivers I’ve spoken with admit that they didn’t understand just how much stress they were under until they suddenly (and often without warning) hit an emotional wall.

There’s a natural tendency to soldier on without truly appreciating the toll caregiving takes on one’s well-being. Caregivers often don’t feel supported. Even when someone stops to ask them how they’re doing, they may not be comfortable opening up for fear of being judged by someone who doesn’t get what they’re going through. 
 
This makes caregiving an isolating experience. And it places caregivers at significant risk of developing health problems of their own, including depression.
 
A 24/7 safety valve
 
Big White Wall can be an important safety valve for family caregivers. It’s a free, 24/7 online community that offers mental health support to residents of Ontario. And it’s completely anonymous. 
 
Members can visit discussion threads called Talk Abouts. They can review what other people are saying and contribute as much or as little as they wish. Members remain anonymous to each other and to the trained counsellors (or Wall Guides) who continuously monitor the space. 
 
In addition to the support provided through Talk Abouts, the site offers a variety of self-help programs. Courses on dealing with stress, anxiety and depression are particularly popular. 
 
A resource library contains articles that are broken down into practical steps. The site even has an art therapy component where members can decorate or write on virtual “bricks.” Tools on the site allow members to track their progress. 
 
Big White Wall is also a helpful resource for caregivers who are looking for advice on how to support a family member with an addiction or mental health issue.
 
“For the first time in my life I feel like I’m actually being heard.”
 
Harriet Ekperigin from OTN (the site’s host in Ontario) provided a peek inside Big White Wall at a recent event organized by thehealthline.ca Information Network. She described it as “a secure space where people can go to talk about their issues without having to worry about being identified.”
 
Its impact can be profound. She quoted an email from a member that said, “For the first time in my life I feel like I’m actually being heard.”
 
According to research conducted before Big White Wall was formally launched in April 2018, 70% of users saw improvement in at least one aspect of their mental well-being. One in two people said they’d reported an issue for the first time. Interestingly, this included people who were seeing therapists and were reluctant to divulge too much to them. They were more comfortable sharing on Big White Wall because it was totally anonymous. 
 
Over 10,000 Ontarians have registered to use the service since it launched.
 

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