Depression and anxiety often follow in the wake of a stroke—and it can affect both survivors and their caregivers. Nurse-researcher Jennifer E. S. Beauchamp, PhD, RN, and her team at Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston are determining if an interactive virtual environment can increase social support and connectedness to improve mental health.
“When a stroke survivor becomes depressed or anxious, there is a much higher rate of depression or anxiety in their informal caregiver,” says Beauchamp. “The entire family often has a fear that the person will have another stroke.”
The pilot project began in 2022 with the team developing an online stroke community from an existing virtual environment that will allow patients and caregivers to interact with others, play games, engage in educational content, and attend weekly support groups. Beauchamp anticipates that the anonymity of avatars will prompt participants to communicate more freely about sensitive topics like loneliness and depression.
The study was launched thanks to a grant from PARTNERS, an organization that helps raise funds for critical nursing scholarships and research awards at Cizik School of Nursing. Since the Many Faces. One Mission. campaign began, PARTNERS has provided 55 scholarships and 13 research grants for investigators to pursue pilot projects, which often later gain significant funding from external sources.