Image Description: a drawing of a woman holding a globe, sitting next to plants. She looks forlorn, next to her are books, headphones and a bowl of food. She is wearing a baggy sweater and printed plants. Next to the drawing is quote that reads: “Your mental health matters. Always. You are entitled to sick days, just like anyone else. Take care of yourself, even if you need to rest today. The ADA entitles you to accommodations for your mental health disorder(s) because the quality of your life should always matter.” Underneath is the text logo of The Girl of the Pink Wheelchair.
October 10 marks World Mental Health Day. During 2020 and our current pandemic, I think it’s especially important for all of us to talk about mental health and what that means. Mental health matters, but especially now.
Not only for our disability community but for all. This has been one of the scariest times for people to access the care that they need and rely upon. Let’s look at some statistics that the CDC has released from their study, just in case you were wondering how bad the numbers have been during this time. We often talk about how the pandemic has impacted our disability community. It’s always important to remember that the mental health community is apart of that, too.
As stated above in that image: 40% PERCENT of people struggled with mental health and or substance during that survey during this pandemic. That’s an uprising number! This is why mental health is so important to think about this year.
It is hard to live during a pandemic. I’m not surprised by certain populations being affected at disproportionate rates, despite how heartbreaking it is. It is immensely difficult for people to live during pandemics that experience disparities and poverty higher, are affected by the pandemic at higher levels, and have a higher risk of being infected and or death.
It’s also important to remember the implications of the pandemic for people with preexisting mental health disorders, as well. They are feeling the weight of not being able to access their doctors in person or may struggle with their telemedicine appointments due to not having broadband! Let’s also not forget the effects of those who may be experiencing homelessness or incarceration for example.
Did you know that 1 out of 5 Americans have a mental health disorder? Did you know that 1 out of every 25 Americans live with a more impacting mental health disorder; i.e. bipolar disorder schizophrenia, etc?
How often do we refer to things as “so crazy” or “so insane” to signify it as bad or “too much to handle”? For people who are living with mental health disorders (which are disabilities since sometimes people don’t “see” that), they internalize a lot of the same ableist language that others with disabilities do as well.
Every year, we see people dressed up on Halloween as “mental patients” which often perpetuate mental illness in a very unhealthy way or dehumanize it. Let’s not forget that “mental patients,” were often placed in asylums against their will– and subjected to horrible things.
I can go on, but I hope that you got my point. Mental health disorders are subjected to constant stigmatization. At this moment of time, it’s really hard to reach out due to social distance. Despite being recognized as a disability, our society often sees mental health disorders as something that’s “abnormal,” and something that’s “wrong.”
The only thing wrong about mental health is how we approach it. There’s nothing wrong about suffering from a mental health disorder or even having a bad time with your mental health. The only thing wrong is judging a person who does or perpetuating negative behaviors towards mental health. I think our concept of mental health needs to change. Remember: your mental health matters. Always.
So many are unaware that the ADA warrants your protections and accommodations because, in 2008, it expanded to cover mental health disorders as a disability.
We often talk a lot about sick days. To me, I think that you should never feel wrong for taking mental sick days — especially if you suffer from a mental health disorder. You are entitled to sick days, just like anyone else. Take care of yourself, even if you need to rest today. The ADA entitles you to accommodations for your mental health disorder(s) because the quality of your life should always matter.
With that, I hope you will take the time today to be more inclusive with your language, thoughts, and hearts towards those who are suffering from a mental health disorder. It’s extremely hard to live during a pandemic.
I hope you take some time to care for yourself – even if you don’t currently suffer from a mental health disorder. Even if you don’t suffer from a mental health disorder at this moment, it’s important to be gentle and nursing with yourself, especially now.