Bon Secours St. Francis Health System has launched a new support group, aimed at helping patients who survived COVID-19 but continue to deal with lingering symptoms caused by the virus.

“It is well documented that viruses like COVID-19 can cause a constellation of symptoms for people after they overcome the viral infection. Those symptoms frequently involve the heart, the lungs, the GI system, the joints, and of course, the brain,” explained Bon Secours Psychiatrist and Behavioral Health Director Dr. Carson Felkel. “What we’re seeing predominantly from Post-Acute COVID are the brain symptoms – headaches, depression, anxiety and fatigue, etc.”

One in three patients will develop these neurological symptoms and struggle with mental health. So, Bon Secours has put together the Upstate’s first Post-COVID Syndrome Support Group program.

Each group will be led by a Bon Secours behavioral health therapist who will teach participants different coping skills to help with grief, anxiety, and other feelings of distress caused by COVID-19. While groups will be kept small – between 6 and 8 people – therapists say the group structure is also part of the healing process.

In group, you are going to see that you are not alone. More people are suffering like you’re suffering. That’s the beauty of group,” said therapist Marta Carvalhal, LISW-CP, DBT-C, CCTP. “We’re going to address the physiology of anxiety and depression and teach you how to take control over your body and mind again.”

Meetings will be held at two separate times during the week – Thursdays at 3:30 p.m. and Friday at noon. Each meeting will last about an hour and can be done in-person or online. All you need to join is a referral from your physician. For more information, contact Kayla Smith at kayla_smith@bshsi.org.