The Silent Struggle: The Mental Health Crisis for People with Aphasia and Their Families

General, News, UCLL, UMAP

Mental health issues are often a major concern for persons with aphasia and their families. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, and grief, among others, are common reactions to the losses that aphasia brings and the impact it has on family and other relationships. Yet there are few resources available to help. 

The main reason for the lack of resources is that most mental health professionals have never received education or training on aphasia, and how to use supportive tools to help those with communication deficits participate in therapy. Most therapists question, ‘How can you do traditional talk therapy if the person cannot talk?’

As part of the University of Michigan’s Aphasia Program’s continued focus on improving mental health resources for people with aphasia and their families, Keli Licata, a Senior Speech-Language Pathologist, and Carol Persad, director of the University Center for Language and Literacy, presented at the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) conference in Novi, Michigan on May 23, 2024. Mental health clinicians learned about aphasia and the unique stressors, life changes, and mood symptoms often experienced by persons with aphasia and their families. 

Attendees were taught how to work with families living with aphasia, including learning about communication tools that can be used in therapy, ways to make their website and intake questionnaires aphasia-friendly, and the need to train all staff about aphasia, including those who answer phones and greet clients. 

The talk was well received by participants. One social worker commented that in all of her years in the field, she had never received this sort of training and wished she had. Another clinician in training, upon realizing the great need for therapists to work in this area, said she had ‘found her calling.’

The U-M Aphasia Program is very excited by the response and Ms. Licata and Dr. Persad plan on continuing to give similar talks in Michigan, with the next one scheduled in July. 

About the U-M Aphasia Program and UCLL

The U-M Aphasia Program (UMAP) provides intensive, comprehensive speech-language therapy for people with aphasia, caused by a stroke, brain injury, illness, or other neurological disorder. UMAP is part of the University Center for Language and Literacy (UCLL), which is committed to helping people of all ages find meaningful ways to communicate. UCLL is part of the Mary A. Rackham Institute (MARI) at the University of Michigan.