What Disabled People Want You To Know About Mental Health

Mental health is often left out of the disability conversation. In reality, mental illness is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting 264 million people.

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A black and white photograph of Diversability community members holding the Diversability sign. Two of the members are sitting in wheelchairs. It is a close up image of the banner, with the community member’s heads cropped out.
A black and white photograph of Diversability community members holding the Diversability sign. Two of the members are sitting in wheelchairs. It is a close up image of the banner, with the community member’s heads cropped out.

Mental health is often left out of the disability conversation. In reality, mental illness is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting 264 million people. Mental health conditions are also a common byproduct of living with other forms of disability. Mental health should be seen as a crucial part of disability awareness, advocacy, and reform, especially as the Covid-19 pandemic has created a mental health crisis and exacerbated mental health conditions.

In October, during National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we partnered with mental health non-profit Made of Millions for a video series featuring Diversability’s community members to shed light on the intersection of mental health, disability, and work. You can check out the collaboration on Instagram and YouTube.

October was also Mental Illness Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day (October 10).  The safety precautions for COVID-19 have fractured many of the social and logistical frameworks that make disabled life happy, functional and successful contributing to an increase in depression in our population who are already at risk for mental health conditions. 

Blue organic square with tape at the top right and top left. In the middle in black text, “Those who have non-mental health disabilities are more susceptible to mental illnesses” Blue highlight behind “non-mental health disabilities” and “susceptible” Below that, “Source: NCBI”

We asked our Diversability community members to share what they want people to know about mental health and disability.

Mental and physical wellness are connected 

I have struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life, as well as a physical disability–I am significantly visually impaired. These mental and physical disabilities are inextricably linked. People often don’t realize how much disability fuels anxiety and depression and how mental and physical wellness need to be addressed together. 

– Leah Herzog 

Life can be challenging, but keep your spirits high

Mental health and disability are very interconnected as people with disorders are mostly known for (having depression.) There is less awareness of mental health in our disabled community in India. In (my day to day life), I observe so many (places) which are not (accessible to disabled people.) Public places (do not have) ramps, so people are forced to stay inside.

(There are) also some challenges (with parenting.) Every parent is not educated enough to (help their) child (succeed). They feel (sad) to have a disabled child. That (feeling) also creates a great impact on their mental health. Not all parents are like mine who always pushed me to achieve all. So it’s best to (make) your own call and be (self-motivated).

Disability will not become a barrier if your spirit is high and you have strong will power. Life throws (you) challenges at every moment. It is easy to share an inspirational tale, but no one has ever tried to live my life. (I have been through) various ups and downs but now (I am) standing apart with the driving force to access (everything this world has to offer.) I boosted up my mental health to showcase my unbreakable spirit, and you too can if you allow yourself to win.

-Sai Kaustuv

Support each other to remove stigma around mental health

I have been injured for 10 years and am no stranger to mental health and the ups and downs that come with it. I am an unusually positive person and persevere through most situations, but I want people to know that depression brings anxiety, and challenges with mental health are a real problem. We need to normalize the situation, talk about it, and be there for one another. I have been through a period of suicidal thoughts over the years after spending years in bed, multiple surgeries, and not making it more times than I can count.

The way I got through it was through the support of my family, community, and making a plan for myself every day such as meditation, reading, learning something new, and talking about what I went through out loud. It should not be a shameful topic and should be talked about just as going to the grocery store… We have to shed light on the subject and make people realize that with this ability can come in incredible life, but not without its challenges.

-Ali Ingersoll 

Find Your Sense of Purpose

It has been a struggle to juggle multiple mental health conditions during Covid-19. It was a struggle before we ever knew what Covid-19 was, but now the world has been turned upside down and it is scary. Things have sure become a lot harder to cope with, but I believe that I have found my purpose in life. That has been my coping tool that has gotten me through all the tough challenges Covid-19 has thrown my way.

I would tell people with any form of disability that EVERYTHING starts with their mind and the thoughts they feed them. We all need a purpose in life, the reason why we are here on this earth and we have survived all the trauma and pain that has clouded our lives. Your purpose is your passion, your passion is your motivation and your motivation is what gets you out of bed in the morning to take on life and all its curveballs, the drive inside you that makes a bad day, week, month, or even a year worth all the struggles. Top tip for finding your purpose:

Helping people or other living animals is a great start to finding something meaningful to do with your life. When you find your “why” the “how” becomes easy… Be strong, stay positive, keep busy, do some sort of exercise, and have faith in your god.

-Craig Lee Rootman

We know the holidays might look different this year, as Covid-19 cases continue to reach all-time highs in the U.S. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and isolated, please know that you are not alone. Don’t hesitate to connect with us at our online community if you need peer support. If you need additional mental health support and live in the U.S., text MADE to 741471 for free, 24/7 crisis support, in Canada, text 686868 & in the UK, text 85258 (check out @madeofmillions for more resources). ⁣

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