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Mental Health Spectrum among People with Disabilities

Over the years, there have been steady developments focusing on mental health among Kenyans. Besides reports detailing the problems with mental health and solutions in relation to the challenges, developments have also been featured in the legal space with policies and acts being enacted and a strong embodiment of the social lens to redefine mental health, rather than the dominant medical approach. 

An image of a young girl with a rainbow on her forehead and in in one hand she has a rainbow coloured chart showing the importance of mental health and the other hand is near her face with her index finger pointing at her lip. | © Bings Copilot

Importance of mental health (Bings Copilot)

As much as these developments instigate a changed landscape, the divergence of disability and mental health possesses critical concerns that remain unexploited.

First off, clearly understanding the difference between poor mental health and mental illness is crucial. Everyone has a mental health status - just as it is with age and race. Through the medical model, the mental health spectrum ranges from good mental health to serious mental illness, the former being recognized as an impairment. 

Now, as much as an individual may not fall on the deep end of mental illness that warrants medical intervention, the social aspects of life can pose significant pressure on an individual to the result of poor mental health. It is this dimension that employers consider rejuvenating features to foster flexible working and ensure the employees remain in their best mental status for effective delivery.


Realizing that social aspects contribute significantly to the status of an individual’s mental wellbeing, persons with disabilities experience the community in a different way, impacting their mental wellbeing. Mostly, social stigma and ableism pose attitudinal threats that significantly affect persons with disabilities.

Rather than being treated as valuable and contributing members of the community, people with disabilities are reduced to their impairments. Coupling this with the ableism mentality, persons with disabilities are therefore viewed as being ‘less’ - an aspect that ripples further to issues of employment, status in the community and relationships.

Consider this: a youth with a disability being stereotyped as insufficient and hence not competing on a level ground with peers, especially those without disabilities. Such limitations in the daily life of such a youth could possibly lead to mental distress. 

This is the story of most young people with disabilities, who, incapacitated by society, experience the length of mental health if distress is not dealt with. Other factors aggravating the extent of mental health among persons with disabilities include poor health behaviors (strongly associated with poverty); increased use of health services, especially medicine and chronic diseases resulting from the impairment.

The concern of mental health in the current population and the related development are encouraging. A wholesome and community approach to handle this menace includes addressing pressing issues, especially attitude and accessibility for persons with disabilities. With inclusion and community intervention, the burden of mental distress will be lifted on the shoulders of persons with disabilities, relieving not just them, but their families as well as their communities.

Article by: Emmanual Makokha

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