International Day of People with Disabilities

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Health Assured team

15 November 2023

The International Day of People with Disabilities is a global event that aims to celebrate the achievements and contributions of people with disabilities, as well as raise awareness and advocate for their rights and inclusion in societies where, historically, they have been misrepresented.

Established in 1992 by the United Nations, the day is observed every year on the 3rd of December 2024. The theme this year is ‘Transformative Solutions for Inclusive Development: the role of Innovation in Fuelling an Accessible and Equitable World.’ 

In this article, we want to highlight the often-hidden nature of disabilities and the mental health challenges that can affect a person’s ability to perform normal daily activities.

How do we define a disability?

Disability is defined as any visible, invisible, emotional, social, and educational challenges that are part of everyday life. Living with a disability makes it more difficult for a person to engage in certain activities or have equitable access within a given society.

In the UK, over 16 million people had a disability in 2021/22, representing 24% of the total population. Mobility is the most frequently reported impairment type (47%), followed by stamina, breathing or fatigue (35%), and mental health (32%).

The mental health of people with disabilities

During 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.

A recent study found that people with disabilities report frequent mental distress almost 5 times as often as those without disabilities. How can living with a disability in our society affect mental health?

  • Physical symptoms of your disability can affect your motivation, mood or whether you take part in social or spiritual activities. For instance, chronic pain may mean you stay home more due to worry about pain flaring up.
  • Using support and health systems can be difficult or even traumatic for people with disabilities. Finding the right support often takes time, energy, and persistence. Some people have ‘invisible’ symptoms and are dismissed or not believed by professionals. This can leave people feeling helpless or lost. Not meeting the criteria for some support options can also be frustrating and lower motivation to seek the help you need.
  • Past challenging experiences relating to disability may also impact your daily life. This may include how you acquired your disability, childhood health treatments, bullying, discrimination or exclusion.
  • Being excluded, discriminated against, or misunderstood can make it difficult to feel optimistic or connect with others. Witnessing others’ negative treatment of disabled people can impact your confidence to take part in social activities.
  • Many with disabilities have grown up disconnected from others with disabilities. At the same time, the benefits of the disability community are misunderstood by many. So you may feel you’re the only one with your particular disability or struggles. People with disabilities often have additional daily living costs and lower incomes than people without disabilities and financial uncertainty can certainly impact your mental health.

It's okay not to be okay

It goes without saying that your disability has already changed your life in big ways. It doesn't help to live in denial about that. You may have limitations that make things more difficult. But with commitment, creativity, and a willingness to do things differently, you can reduce the impact your disability has on your life. Here are some ideas you can try:

  • Take advantage of the things you can do
  • Set realistic goals and be patient
  • Ask for and accept help and support
  • Join a disability support group
  • Consider talking to a mental health professional
  • Be your own advocate
  • Make your health a top priority

We are here to support you

A disability can take away many aspects of your identity, leaving you questioning who you are, what your value is, and where you fit in society.

Don’t let your disability define who you are. It's easy to start feeling useless and empty, especially if you can't do the same work or activities as you did before. That's why it's important to find new things that make you feel good about yourself—things that give you a renewed sense of meaning and purpose.

If you have an Employee Assistance Programme with Health Assured, remember that we are here to support you. You can get in touch with us via the Wisdom app or helpline.

How can you support your employees with disabilities?

Our Employee Assistance Programme provides guidance and supports your employees with their any issues and mental health in the workplace. We can help you create a safe, productive workspace that supports all.

We support employees mental wellbeing with any problems they might be facing in their professional or personal lives with our 24-hour counselling helpline.

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