Disability and Mental health

Disability is defined as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. It is essential to understand the diversity of disability and the intensity of impairment. The rights of persons with disabilities include cerebral palsy, dwarfism, muscular dystrophy, chronic neurological disorders (including Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis), blood disorders (including hemophilia, thalassemia, and sickle cell disease), acid attack victims, speech and language disability, and intellectual disability, which includes specific learning disability [SLD] and autism spectrum disorder.

People with disabilities face different physical and mental challenges. The social stigmas and discrimination that are towards people with disabilities, ignorance and lack of awareness about the services and government schemes that are available for people with disabilities can stagnate their progress and betterment in life.

A study that was done in 2018 stated that around 17.4 million adults with disabilities experienced regular mental health issues, which was estimated to occur 4.6 times more often than individuals without any disability. Lack of social or family support, facing physical barriers, negative stereotyping, ignorance, abuse (verbal, physical, and emotional), and neglect are often faced by people with disabilities, which makes them at higher risk of developing mental disorders.

During my clinical internship, I was involved in play and art therapy among children. I saw a child constantly sketch a small bear with red spots. When asked, she whispered, “The big bear hits the small bear for not being normal.” Later in the counseling, it was discovered that the child was constantly beaten up by the father for not being like other children. The father had to be psycho-educated, and we showed him the skill and the mathematical ability that his daughter has. She was excellent in math and played with numbers. Movies like Taare Zameen Par showcase the lack of awareness among family and schools to identify what and where the child was struggling. Due to a lack of awareness, the child was subjected to verbal and physical abuse, which led to emotional disturbance in the child.

Barriers for people with disabilities

Individuals with disabilities encounter different obstacles in obtaining good physical and mental healthcare.

Social Stigmas

People with disabilities are often looked down upon and reduced to their disability. These stigmas devalue and dismiss their most necessary needs including better healthcare.

Lack of Awareness

The Indian government has different schemes, programs, and services for people with disabilities to uplift and enhance their well-being. Many children are locked up in the house, deprived of care and government opportunities for children with disabilities. Parents and family members should be educated and should not be ignorant about these policies, and they should make sure the individual gets the necessary support and care. Obtaining a secure full-time job becomes difficult for a person with disabilities. Ensuring the government’s disability benefits and schemes and providing them with the right care and facilities can help the individual.

To improve their mental health
  • Therapy and counseling
  • A counseling setting can be a safe space for a child or an adult to express their thoughts and feelings. Families can seek validation in the counseling setting and share their challenges. Counseling is a non-judgmental and confidential space for the individual with a disability and their family to confide.
  • Art & Play Therapy: Children enjoy art and play therapy as it gives them the freedom to express themselves and play with others. This can enhance their creativity, cognition, communication skills, motor skills, and social skills.
  • Occupational therapy involves teaching and training the child to take care of themselves, develop employment skills, and do their own domestic tasks.
  • Speech therapy can help them communicate, express, and articulate speech.
  • Physical therapy can enhance their quality of life by helping them to move and overcome mobility challenges.
  • Check out the different resources that are available for mental health and people with disabilities.
  • Help the adults connect with others, and parents can take the children to centers where play and art therapies are provided for their children to socialize and enjoy with others.
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