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People With Disability and Mental Health Issues We look at the importance of good mental health, the impact of the pandemic and why we should keep raising awareness of mental health issues.
Doing Things To Look After Our Mental Health
Clara Ayudar Co-Founder & Disability Support WorkerView Bio

The Importance of Good Mental Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognises the importance of mental health :

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not only the absence of affections or diseases.

This is why in recent years more visibility and importance have been given to issues related to mental health. We have realised that there must be a balance, so that we can have well-being and quality of life. Good mental health is as important as having good physical health.

Speaking of physical health, sometimes people may not feel in their best condition. This does not mean that they have some kind of physical problem. The same happens with mental health: sometimes people do not feel well mentally but this does not mean that there is a mental illness.

Every person in their life has experienced ups and downs, anxiety, stillness, etc. That is normal in your response to daily life events. However, this can become a problem when symptoms become severe or continue to appear over a long period of time. Especially if they are having a negative impact on your life and those around you.

People With Disability and Mental Health

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare , 41.5 percent of people with disability accessed themselves as having low levels of psychological stress. This is compared to 70.4 percent of people without disability. This is a considerable amount of extra stress for people with disability.

Even though people with disability are more likely to have a mental health problem, they are less likely to receive treatment . One reason for this is that people with disability face additional barriers to accessing mental health treatment. Some of these barriers are:

  • Lack of skills to communicate what they are experiencing and feeling. I discussed communication with individuals with disability in a past article.

  • Not realising that the feelings they are experiencing are possible symptoms of a mental illness.

  • They are dependent on someone else to organise appointments on their behalf. Their caregivers might not be aware their problems.

The Impact of the Pandemic

Wearing Masks Indoors Wearing Masks Indoors

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic took everyone by surprise. Mental health had been a hot topic of conversation for the previous few years but 2020 saw it discussed considerably more.

The "new covid normal" affected our mental health. Many of us were forced to isolate ourselves in our homes, with our families, with friends, or alone. We were forced to work online or worse be without work. There was constant uncertainty and fear of not knowing what would happen in the future.

The effect on peoples mental health was even stronger in those who already suffered from a mental health problem or were a person with disability. Why? There could be multiple reasons:

  • A large number of people with disability are considered more vulnerable in health matters (depending on the disability and the individual). They are potentially at greater risk if they contract the virus and in turn they may suffer from higher levels of stress as a result.

  • Many people with disability depend on other people. They may require assistance in leaving their homes and doing a number of different activities. Quarantines and lockdowns contributed to the work of caregivers being more restricted.

  • The closure of spaces where people met for physical and social activities, also caused their mental health to be affected. For many people, these centers and activities were the only way to socialise and have interaction with other people in similar situations.

Raise Awareness of Mental Health

Lady Looking Out The Window Lady Looking Out The Window

Regardless of whether Australia has already managed to control the virus or not, it is important to consider this information in case we or someone we know has suffered or continues to suffer from a mental health illness. If we know someone who is having mental health problems, the most important thing is not to judge them since each individual is different. Sometimes it is not necessary to say anything. It is enough just to be there for those who need us.

If you know someone with disability or you are a person with disability, make sure you check in with theirs or your feelings from time to time.

  • Are there feelings of something not being quite right?

  • Are there feelings of not being able to stay and be calm?

  • Is there more fear than normal when carrying out normal activities.

If a person you know does not want to leave their home to talk to someone, it is vital to still get them support. Do not ignore long lasting mood swings or negative thoughts.

A mental health problem can be seen "as one more characteristic within a disability" but it is not.

Taking action and seeking support can make a huge difference to our well-being and the ones we care about.

Getting Help When You Need It Getting Help When You Need It

Remember that mental health illnesses are more common than we think and there is nothing wrong with them. It is vital to seek support and speak with professionals who can help us to understand what we are feeling and guide us to the proper treatment.

There are also organisations such as Beyond Blue that provide help. They do it in a way that protects your privacy too. Beyond Blue also offers support to people who are deaf or hard of hearing and also to people whose English is not their first language.

Ayudar offers a number of supports for people with disability. Contact us below to see how we can help you.

This article is meant to provide factual information on the topic of mental health. The author is not a qualified psychologist, so it should not be seen as advice.

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