How Ableism Affects the Mental Health of Disabled People

By Kelly Douglas: For Complete Post, click here…

The conversation surrounding mental health is awash in buzzy phrases like “self-care” and “burnout,” discussions about anxiety and depression and personal stories about taking psychiatric medication.  But while the past decade has seen people from all walks of life open up about their struggles with mental health, the effects of ableism on disabled people’s mental health has received comparatively little attention.

We need to talk about how ableism affects the mental health of those in the disability community.

Ableism is the systemic oppression of people with disabilities and includes a lack of access to public buildings, the media’s often-negative depictions of disabled bodies, disregarding invisible physical or mental symptoms and the rampant use of “inspiration porn” and pity towards people with disabilities. Although these sometimes occur separately, the effects of a lifetime of feeling displaced or unwelcome in society often build up over time and significantly affect disabled people’s mental health.

Studies have shown that 17.4 percent of people with disabilities experience “frequent mental distress” — a higher percentage than in the able-bodied, neurotypical population.  Additionally, depression symptoms are two to 10 times more common in people with disabilities, and higher levels of anxiety have been reported in people with disabilities as well. While some may attribute these mental illnesses to frustration with physical limitations, this high prevalence of anxiety and depression is more often related to how society viewstreats and excludes people with disabilities rather than to disability symptoms themselves.

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