July is Disability Pride Month – it marks the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which continues to break down barriers to inclusion for people with physical and mental disabilities. But for the over 61 million Americans currently living with a disability, the fight for inclusion, access, and acceptance is far from over.

People living with disabilities continue to face discrimination and unequal access in employment, housing, medical care and insurance coverage. The physical challenges many face, including immobility or chronic pain, can lead to social challenges, like isolation from social events or recreational activities. This isolation, along with the stigmas that come with their disabilities and the stresses of finding adequate health care and navigating everyday life, can lead to mental health concerns as well.

What are some barriers to care experienced by people with disabilities?

  • Lack of integrated care: People with disabilities can experience traumatic stress and depression due to their situation, but find that physicians only treat them for the physical health issues, while discounting the mental health issues. Often there is no collaboration between providers from different specialties.
  • Poverty and unemployment: Due to difficulty finding work from discrimination or lack of accommodation, many people with disabilities have a hard time holding down consistent employment, which means that health insurance is much harder to obtain and afford. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021, less than 20% of people with disabilities were employed.
  • Cost: Treatments for chronic illnesses can get very expensive very quickly. With the difficulties people with disabilities can face to find affordable housing, employment, and assistance with other medical bills, paying for mental health treatment can take a back seat.
  • Communication barriers: If a person has a disability that makes communication with others difficult, it can be very challenging to find mental health professionals who are equipped to accommodate them.

There is help…and hope. Thankfully, there are resources that are especially tailored to people with disabilities to help them access supports for daily living, finances, and mental health support. There are also support groups and social media groups specifically for people with disabilities who are struggling with mental health issues. Check out the American Association for People with Disabilities for helpful resources and ways to advocate for better accessibility for all people.

You can also contact the NAMI NC Helpline (800-451-9682; text 919-999-6527; email helpline@naminc.org) for assistance finding appropriate resources near you.

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