Mental Health & Illness for People with Disabilities

Raising Awareness & Providing Resources

Mental health and illness are important issues that affect millions of people across the world. Certain groups can be more susceptible to distress and illness, including those with a physical disability, and veterans.

This blog post is dedicated to raising awareness for mental health challenges that people with disabilities face. The end of this blog also provides links to resources for those who may need assistance or are just interested in learning more. If you are in crisis and need immediate help, call 988. The Lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support for people in distress.

There is an important difference between mental health and mental illness. Mental health refers to anyone’s state of mental, emotional wellbeing. Mental illness is a condition that can be diagnosed that affects thoughts, moods, and behaviors.

When it comes to the root cause of mental illness, there is no one determinant – as we know, everyone is different. According to the Mayo Clinic, several factors can contribute to the onset and risk for mental illness, including:

  • Traumatic experiences in early life (like child abuse, sexual assault, witnessing violence, etc.)
  • Feelings of loneliness or isolation
  • Biological factors or chemical imbalances in the brain
  • Stressful life situations like a loved one’s death
  • Experiences related to other ongoing medical conditions like cancer or disability
  • Use of alcohol or drugs

Mental Health and Illness for Those with Physical Disability

A 2018 study published by the CDC by Cree et al. found that adults with disabilities experience more mental distress than adults without disabilities. This study estimated that in 2018, 17.4 million adults with disabilities experienced frequent mental distress, 4.6 times as often than did adults without disabilities.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), in addition to the added risk of mental health struggles, people with disabilities often experience barriers when they search for effective and accessible mental health care. These could be in-person barriers to care or virtual communication challenges – making it difficult to interact with mental health professionals and communicate concerns. Reliable transportation for persons with mobility-related disability can be a barrier that may isolate people from adequate care, NAMI says.

Another issue facing the disability community is dehumanizing stigmas, where people with disabilities are treated as less than human by their non-disabled counterparts and are discriminated against because of their disability. “Ableism” is defined by NAMI as the dominant attitudes and behaviors in society that “devalue and limit the potential of those with disabilities”.

For people with disabilities, physical and mental healthcare is not always connected or integrated. Priority tends to lie with the physical challenges faced by individuals with disabilities, neglecting their mental health and well-being. Nevertheless, having a disability profoundly affects various aspects of a person’s life, including their emotional state, mindset, and cognitive processes. An example of this is the traumatic stress experienced by many individuals with disabilities in response to distressing treatments or symptoms related to their condition. Isolation can also lead to feelings of depression and anxiety among people with disabilities.

People with disabilities and people who care for them are encouraged to keep their own records, ask questions during doctors’ visits, and advocate for respectful and effective care.

Unique Challenges Facing People with Disabilities

The National Disability Institute is committed to financial education and empowerment for people with disabilities. NDI says that people with disabilities are often discriminated against when seeking employment, and that the poverty rate for adults with disabilities is more than twice the rate of adults without a disability.

Disability benefits from government agencies often do not provide enough funding to live in assisted living facilities or live independently with a disability, according to NAMI.

The costs for living with disability can be insurmountably expensive. Treatment and care is not always covered by insurance or government benefits. The lack of affordable housing has also led to increases in homelessness amongst people with disabilities, which has a direct impact on mental health, according to the Center of American Progress. People living with disabilities often must pay medical bills out of pocket, which often leads to prioritizing physical care over mental health concerns, NAMI says.  

People with disabilities deserve the same right to life, liberty and happiness as everyone else in this country. If you live with a disability and are struggling with your mental health or illness, it is important to recognize that you are not alone. Reach out to or visit the following resources for help with navigating mental health and illness challenges. 

Mental Health and Illness Resources for People with Disabilities

Mental Health and Illness Resources for Veterans

Many members of the iBOT® community are veterans. Mobius Mobility recognizes the importance of raising awareness for the unique challenges that veterans face. The men and women who served this country deserve effective mental healthcare as part of the debt we as a society owe them. If you are a veteran and are struggling with mental health or illness, you should know that you are not alone. Explore the below resources for helpful information.