The past 15 months has been a challenging time for the world as a whole. A divisive presidential election, a global pandemic, and the mourning of loved ones, as well as the life we knew; vanished in what seems an instant.
Mental and emotional crises are at an all-time high, but for some, resources are at an all-time low. Today, I want to bring attention to the struggles my community is facing concurrent with a pandemic that has some fighting for their lives. These struggles, these factors are influencing our mental health, and the decline of it.
The CDC recently released statistics on Adults with Disabilities and their mental decline. In part it reads,
“A recent study found that adults with disabilities report experiencing more mental distress than those without disabilities.2 In 2018, an estimated 17.4 million (32.9%) adults with disabilities experienced frequent mental distress, defined as 14 or more reported mentally unhealthy days in the past 30 days. Frequent mental distress is associated with poor health behaviors, increased use of health services, mental disorders, chronic disease, and limitations in daily life.2During the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation, disconnect, disrupted routines, and diminished health services have greatly impacted the lives and mental well-being of people with disabilities.3″ (CDC, 2020)
Three factors which have been impacted by the pandemic, influencing the mental health of Persons with Disability are (but not limited to)
- The inability to access resources
- Interruption of a structured routine
Isolation- Social distancing is one of the tools society is using to help minimize the risks of transmitting the COVID-19 virus. That has led to friends not being able to see friends, family members being separated, sometimes by countries, and people that are integral to our well-being being removed from our proximity. Not only do we have to contend with not being able to attend certain functions because its location isn’t accessible, but now we are isolating for our immediate safety. Persons with Disability and pre-existing conditions are at a higher risk of mortality if they are infected with the virus.
Inability to access resources- The pandemic has greatly influenced choices citizens are making: wear a mask in public, social distance, and putting on the back burner something that is necessary, yes, but not immediate. I have seen this play out many times for Persons with Disability. Knowing that we are at a higher risk of harm, many of us have chosen to cancel or put of appointments vital to our emotional and mental well-being for the price of our physical safety. In-person appointments have been cancelled and moved to an online platform, but what about those that do not have access to the technology needed to see it through? Vital in-person services such as interpreting services are interrupted, which brings with it a host of complications: an inability to relay information, or receive information.
Routine- As a former behavioral interventionist, I learned first hand the power a predictable, structured routine can have on an individual’s well-being. It is something that can be relied on, depended on, and fallen back on in moments of heightened emotions. But what happens when you gradually lose pieces of that structure, such as: therapy, counseling, or perhaps a weekly standing coffee date with a loved one? I’ve had three surgeries in the past 9 months, and as a result I had to resign from a job I deeply cared about. I went from having counseling, work, and meetings multiple times a week to nothing very suddenly. The lack of structure greatly influenced my internal self-worth.
“I am not contributing to society”
“Am I worthy?”
“I’m just being lazy.”
Each of these statements, while untrue, were very real reality I had to manage.
If you or a loved one is struggling, I want you to know that you are not alone. You are worthy and important, and there are people and resources to help you!
If you are in crisis, get immediate help:
- Call 911
- National Suicide Prevention Lifelineexternal icon: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish, or Lifeline Crisis Chatexternal icon.
- National Domestic Violence Hotlinexternal icone: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
- National Child Abuse Hotlineexternal icon: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453
- National Sexual Assault Hotlineexternal icon: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or Online Chat external icon
- Veteran’s Crisis Lineexternal icon: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Crisis Chatexternal icon or text: 8388255
- Disaster Distress Helplineexternal icon: CALL or TEXT 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish).
- The Eldercare Locatorexternal icon: 1-800-677-1116 – TTY Instructionsexternal icon