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Harlem Word: Laura Evensen explains social support

Laura Evensen, MPH, is the coordinator of the Northern Manhattan Stroke Club, which is the only bilingual stroke support group in the city. She is in charge of bringing in speakers every month to talk about topics that interest stroke survivors. Here she tells us how important it is for people to have support when they are recovering from a major illness such as stroke.

Q: What is social support?

A: Social support comes from all of the people in your life who add to your sense of well-being. This includes your friends, family, connections that you have through work, or just from your day-to-day life, and so on. Anybody in your life who helps you and is positive can give you social support.
The people who are most important in a strong social support network are close family members and close friends, especially for stroke survivors who sometimes have to take a step back in their life because they cannot do certain things in order to recover. These people usually provide a lot of support and encouragement with many of the difficult things that a stroke survivor must face during their recovery.

Q: How is social support important in the healing process?

A: Having the support of our friends and family or of a support group is important when a person is recovering from stroke. They can help with goal-setting to get their lives back on track. It is also important for the stroke survivor to have people in his or her life to talk to and share their feelings about what's happened to them.

A stroke is a big event in a person's life. Strokes can be very minor to very severe. The effects of having a stroke can last anywhere from just a couple of days to being a permanent disability. Stroke survivors have to cope with major changes in their lives-their changing roles in their job, family, households, neighborhoods, and community. All of those things are very hard to deal with if you don't have anyone to help you get through it.

Q: Can you tell us more about stroke support groups and how these are different from the support people get from their friends and family?

A: Support groups are made up of people who have "been there" and understand what it means to survive a stroke. Friends and family are extremely important in providing day-to-day support, but they may not have the insights that other stroke survivors have, since they have not experienced it.

If you would like more information about joining a bilingual stroke support group in Northern Manhattan, please contact Laura at 212-342-1498 or via e-mail at: lab46@mail.cumc.columbia.edu. You can also contact her colleagues Carly Klein at 212-305-1372 or ck2316@mail.cumc.columbia.edu; or Veronica Perez at 212-342-4749 or vp2184@mail.cumc.columbia.edu.

Read more from Laura Evensen by clicking the links below:

Harlem Word is a series of interviews with Northern Manhattan health experts, written by HHPC and reviewed by our Health Advisory Board.

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