6 min read | Posted on January 3, 2021
Adults with disabilities report experiencing frequent mental distress almost 5 times as often as adults without disabilities. Call your doctor if your mental health gets in the way of your daily activities for at least 14 days in a month.
December 3rd was International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In the United States, 1 in 4 adults—61 million—have a disability.1 Many people will experience a disability at some point during their lives. Disabilities limit how a child or adult functions. These limitations may include difficulty walking or climbing stairs; hearing; seeing; or concentrating, remembering, or making decisions.
Although “people with disabilities” sometimes refers to a single population, this is a diverse group of people with a wide range of needs. Two people with the same type of disability can be affected in very different ways. Some disabilities may be hidden or not easy to see.
A recent study found that adults with disabilities report experiencing more mental distress than those without disabilities.2 In 2018, an estimated 17.4 million (32.9%) adults with disabilities experienced frequent mental distress, defined as 14 or more reported mentally unhealthy days in the past 30 days. Frequent mental distress is associated with poor health behaviors, increased use of health services, mental disorders, chronic disease, and limitations in daily life.2
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.3
Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row. Free and confidential resources can also help you or a loved one connect with a skilled, trained counselor in your area
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. How you respond to stressful situations, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, can depend on your background, your support systems (e.g. family or friends), your financial situation, your health and emotional background, the community you live in, and many other factors.
People with disabilities or developmental delays may respond strongly to the stress of a crisis, particularly if they are also at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 (for example, older people and people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions).
We are often asked this question, and many of us say we’re “fine.” But this has been a difficult time lately, and emotions can be complex. You may be feeling sad, worried, or stressed.
It helps to stay positive and remind yourself of your strengths. Visit How Right Now for inspiration and resources to find what helps.
CDC provides funding for two National Centers on Disability that focus on improving the quality of life for people living with disabilities.
Special Olympics’ Inclusive Health programming focuses on improving the physical and social-emotional well-being of people with intellectual disabilities by increasing inclusion in health care, wellness, and health systems for Special Olympics athletes and others with intellectual disabilities.
“I learned relaxation techniques and now always try these when I find myself overwhelmed. I would recommend these strategies to others, too. A strong mind is an important part to a happy body,” shares Kayte Barton, a Special Olympics athlete from Minnesota. Barton was a part of the Special Olympics committee to help develop emotional health programming for Special Olympics athletes across the world in its flagship Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® program.
Special Olympics’ Strong Mindfulness program offers free, 1-hour mindfulness sessions for people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Participants learn deep breathing techniques, body awareness and progressive muscle relaxation, mindful movement, and guided meditation. They also receive a Strong Minds Activity Guide designed to help them develop their coping skills in everyday life.
The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) seeks to help people with disabilities and other chronic health conditions achieve health benefits through increased participation in all types of physical and social activities. NCHPAD’s M.E.N.T.O.R program, which stands for Mindfulness, Exercise and Nutrition to Optimize Recovery, takes a holistic approach to restoring, improving, and protecting health. The program divides health into three domains: physical, mental, and emotional. Through this program, people who have acquired a new disability (e.g., spinal cord injury, stroke, traumatic brain injury), a new diagnosis (e.g., multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease), or have a congenital condition (e.g., cerebral palsy, spina bifida) learn the many ways life can be enhanced through health and wellness activities.
As CDC honors International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we ask that you join us in being a part of the global movement to change attitudes toward, and promote the inclusion of, people with disabilities.
Eastern Shore Crisis Response1-888-407-8018