Mar 22, 2023 | Mental Health

People sitting in a support group meeting

The Impact of a Disability on Mental Health

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There is no doubt that a disability can have an impact on a person’s mental health. Those who are living with a short term, or long term, disability may have higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. This can be because of social isolation, discrimination, and physical pain. Dealing with a disability can also mean changes to their everyday life, which is a huge challenge as well. Therefore, we would like to chat about some of the ways we can help those living with a disability feel less alone and accepted. 

Adults with disabilities report experiencing frequent mental distress almost 5 times as often as adults without disabilities.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

In many instances, society plays a significant role in how people with disabilities live and cope within the world. According to Abilities.com, many of the mental health struggles individuals deal with has less to-do about their disability, and more to do with how they are perceived or treated by others: “This includes barriers that are both structural and ideological, from limited access to public transportation or curbside cutouts for wheelchair-users to the lack of flexible work options for persons who might need it. Persons with visible disabilities, for instance, report that they often experience various forms of discrimination when out in public.”  

There are also challenges in the workplace as those living with a disability often feel like they are thought of as less capable, more needy, and not as reliable as those living without a disability. 

Along with discrimination, individuals with a disability may struggle with communicating for mental health advocacy, access to care, and face employment or financial struggles. All these challenges can be compounded-leading to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. 

Last week, we discussed Neurodiversity and the importance of celebrating our differences. Included in that, was the importance of language and the power our words hold.  

In an article from Very Well Family, they list a few general rules to follow when discussing disabilities: “When addressing another person directly, always ensure you are using the language that they prefer.  If you don’t know what they prefer, it’s okay to ask. As a rule of thumb, you’re safer to use person-first language over identity-first language, as some people still may take offense to have their disabilities before their personal information.” 

Since every person is different, it is important to recognize that what is appropriate and acceptable for one person, may not be the same for another. This is why asking for a person’s preferences will help the individual feel more included, but also aids in educating those without a disability. 

It is important to ensure our environments are accommodating to everyone, and that the way in which we act and speak is inclusive and understanding. 

Everyone longs to be seen as the person they are and to be accepted unconditionally. While there is still work to be done to ensure inclusivity is everywhere, taking steps in the right direction in your workplace, home, and social groups can pave the way toward significant change.

Learn more on this topic

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