And our education on them
Content warning: This article discusses topics of mental health which could be distressing to some readers
When thinking about disabilities generally the first thing to come to mind are ones that we can see, the ones we can visually recognise every day, such as people who require wheelchairs, prosthetics or any other physical aid that allows them to go about their daily activities more easily. However, what is not always thought of at first is the many mental illnesses and non-visible physical illnesses that fall under the broad term of disability.
These lesser-thought-of disabilities are still widely known and have countless resources for data on them, and more importantly, for support and help to surround them, namely on the NHS website. However, I feel that it is important to keep these in mind when going about our everyday lives as it's almost impossible to tell visually that someone suffers from any of the disabilities I'm going to cover in this article.
Our mental health
Mental Health issues have always played a role in people's lives, it is only in the last few decades however that it has been given the attention and recognition it needs to be properly understood. The scariest part about them is that they are hard to identify for other people without knowledge of mental illness, this raises the issue that people could be living their lives without even knowing they have such a disability, without communication with others it's easy to assume what you are experiencing is the same as everyone else.
This is why it's so important to teach and learn about mental health so that we can properly understand and normalise what others and ourselves are dealing with to allow people who do suffer from it to feel comfortable in telling others about their mental health. According to a publication conducted in 2007, the NHS states that one in four people suffer from mental health issues.
in 2007 nearly one person in four (23.0 per cent) in England had at least one psychiatric disorder and 7.2 per cent had two or more disorders
Given how much more we know and understand now about mental health 15 years later I don't think its a far cry to assume such numbers could possibly be even higher now, despite the support the NHS is striving to provide for mental health the educational aspect feels sorely lacking and can lead to a mental illness going unchecked or those who know they suffer with it feeling alienated. Hopefully, at some point, this is implemented into the education system to help young people understand not only others but also themselves.
On the other hand, there are disabilities that are physical that mostly go overlooked when thinking of the term disabled, things such as visual impairment, asthma and diabetes are all disabilities that aren't we aren't physically able to see at first glance. This leads again to these disabilities not being at the forefront of people's minds and results in a lack of knowledge and education surrounding the topics. To focus on one of these, when thinking of the term blindness the most obvious thing to assume is a complete lack of vision however RNIB a support group for those who are visually impaired state that 93% of people who suffer from visual impairment of blindness can still somewhat see to an extent.
"Did you know that 93 per cent of blind and partially sighted people can see something?
An image of a woman holding a white cane whilst using her mobile phone went viral on social media, and it highlighted many of the misconceptions that the general public have around the lives of blind and partially sighted people."
This is a misconception held by many people around the world which is most likely due to the lack of education surrounding non-visible disabilities, given how many people suffer from all kinds of different hidden disabilities I believe its important to learn a bit about them and to lose these misconceptions that we have come to adopt as fact. This extends to all disabilities not just those surrounding vision as we aren't always as educated as we should be when it comes to disability and mental health.
What we can do
To conclude I think that we could all learn a little bit more about non-visual disabilities whether that be the ones that affect our mental health or the ones that affect our bodies physically. As well as this to hope that these topics are someday worked into the education system to teach people from a young age and help to avoid the misconceptions and all of the stigmas that surround disability and mental health, in order to help those who do suffer with them feel more comfortable and feel like they can get the help and support they need without fear of being judged or alienated.