Mental Health & Wellbeing Matters: respecting hidden disabilities

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Not every disability is visible, and it’s worth keeping judgement to a minimum: a few thoughts right here.


Hello and welcome to the spot on our site where we chat about mental health and wellbeing. You probably could have guessed that from the title, to be fair. Anyway, it’s a weekly series, and we talk about all sorts of things, and hopefully over the course of the articles we run, there’s something that’s of use to you.

This week, just a few words on disabilities that aren’t immediately obvious. That’s not always the case, and whilst people generally – but not always – make accommodations when they see someone in a wheelchair, for instance. But, sadly, I still see smatterings of judgement when things aren’t immediately obvious.

It’s something very much in and around my life, and I still see that tolerance for the unknown and unseen is not particularly high.

Just a few things that don’t tend to get the appreciation that they need. Anxiety in public places is one, or a physical inability to stand for long periods of time, even though there’s nothing you could guess just by looking at someone.

Autism brings with it, as many of you know, a mix of behaviours in different environments, and poor response to that doesn’t tend to help (he says, with a massive dollop of understatement). You can’t instantly spot hearing loss, mental health challenges, epilepsy, sensory difficulties, CFS, diabetes, cystic fibrosis… this list could go on and on, really.

But the mix of them, with the snap judgements people make, can really cause problems.

An example of that is a disabled toilet facility. A friend of mine has just started living with a stoma for instance, and using regular public toilets is a no-no. They’re having anxieties running alongside the readjustments they’re making. The day to day is hard enough for them without the looks and mutterings they get when they’re able to walk perfectly easily to the facilities.

Life, as has been written in this column many times, is rarely as simple and straightforward as it sometimes looks. We don’t know what the people we walk by on the street are really going through on a day to day basis, and how hard it’s been – or otherwise – just to get out and about.

It’s hard to do too many specifics in a piece like this, as it’s a more general point I’m trying to make. One of tolerance, of not jumping to conclusions, and, at heart, of giving people just a bit of slack. Many of you do, most of us have our off days. But for those in the crosshairs of everyday judgements, it can make already challenging circumstances even more so. Stating the obvious, sure. But the obvious is, sadly, sometimes missed.

The very best to you all. Thanks for reading. This column returns next week.

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