At Be The Match®, the health and emotional well-being of our blood stem cell donors are incredibly important—and these past few years have had a big effect on so many people, including our donors. We’re here to support you along your donation journey. To help, Senior Vice President Erica Jensen and Donor Services social worker Caitlyn Squire have joined forces to let you know about the variety of mental health resources that are available to donors.
Watch the video above or read the Q&A below to find out more.
Erica: Caitlyn, you work with donors every single day. What concerns are you hearing from them?
Caitlyn: It’s been a tough couple of years on people, and that certainly includes our donors. They’re experiencing a lot of the same stressors that the rest of us are, related to the pandemic, job insecurity, financial concerns, isolation—it’s been challenging. A lot of people are experiencing anxiety or depression as a result, and it’s ok to not be ok. We’re here to support them throughout the process.
Erica: Of all the mental health resources we offer our members, which one are people most surprised by?
Caitlyn: I think people are most surprised and appreciative that a social worker exists just for our donors. As our Donor Services social worker, I can work with donors throughout their experience with Be The Match, providing support from when they get called as a match through their collection and post-donation as well.
Donation inevitably adds a degree of stress and anxiety to people’s lives, and I’m here to help them navigate through that. There are also times when someone isn’t chosen as a donor, for whatever reason, and they might want help processing the feelings that arise as a result. Sometimes it’s just a one-time conversation, but I can also be available for ongoing counseling sessions as needed.
I also provide a great deal of training and support directly to donor-facing Be The Match staff so that they’re well-equipped to support donors and know when and how to refer a donor for extra support or assessment.
Erica: That’s pretty amazing. And there’s no cost for your services?
Caitlyn: Not a dime! We never want there to be barriers to our donors getting the care that they need.
Erica: What else does your team do to help support the mental health and well-being of donors?
Caitlyn: One of the biggest things is making sure we’re looking at a donor’s health holistically. We do an extensive health history, but we also ask about their emotional well-being for a couple of reasons. One is that, given there’s a patient on the other end of this, we want to make sure that if our donors are experiencing active mental health symptoms, that those symptoms are well-controlled and unlikely to interfere with their donation activities.
On the other hand, we also really value our donors and want to ensure that donation is a safe, healthy and positive experience. The last thing that we want to do is exacerbate someone’s mental health symptoms by having them go through this process and cause a negative impact on their emotional well-being.
Erica: Are there any other resources available to someone as they move through the donation process?
Caitlyn: We also offer our Donor Connect program, which is a peer-to-peer support program where people can connect with a past donor and mentor who’s available to share their experience and provide support. Our donors are in a really unique position, and it can be helpful to connect with someone who has been through the process.
We also have our Donor Facebook Community, which is a closed group available only to those who have been contacted as a possible donor. We have nearly 4,500 members at this point, and it’s a wonderful place for people to connect, ask questions and get support from others who have been in their shoes.
We’ve also got some great support resources that are available in multiple languages.
Erica: If a donor is experiencing mental health challenges, what should they do?
Caitlyn: Please reach out—and know that you’re not alone. We know that 24% or so of our donors are experiencing some sort of mental health condition, and we want to be sure they’re getting the support they need. Donors can request counseling through their Be The Match representatives.
If you’re a member and have any questions about being on the registry or the resources available to you, please reach out to our Public Response team at 1 (800) MARROW-2 or email@example.com.