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“I was meant to have mental health inpatient care but I could not be admitted because they (the hospital) could not provide the physical care I needed. I needed hoisted and that was a problem, so I could not go.”

GDA member

‘Disabled People’s Mental Health Matters’ is a groundbreaking report by Angela Gribben, AMG Training & Consultancy and Glasgow Disability Alliance. It brings two key ideas together:

  1. What happens when disabled people also have problems with their mental health?
  2. And what happens when people who experience mental health problems also have physical impairments?

Drawing on evidence from 37 diverse disabled GDA members and GDA staff, the report pinpoints barriers faced by disabled people who need support with their mental health. The report is required reading for practitioners, managers and funders of statutory and third sector mental health services.

“I repeatedly asked for information and mental health support booklets in an accessible format. They [major mental health service provider] said they did not have any.”

GDA member

“I asked if there was wheelchair access at [third sector mental health service] and they replied, ‘No, why would there be?’”

GDA member

We know that disabled people are disproportionately likely to experience mental health problems, particularly due to inequality, poverty and isolation (Brunner and Glasgow DPO Network, 2022a and 2022b). So, statutory and third sector mental health services should be taking care to always being accessible to disabled people. However, the report finds that disabled people experience all kinds of barriers to getting mental health support – even at times of absolute crisis. Barriers include insufficient services, discriminatory attitudes, inaccessible services, and inaccessible information. Overall, there is a sense that disabled peoples’ lives are somehow worth ‘less’.

“My GP said I should expect to be depressed due to my [physical] condition.”

“I was told, of course, you’re anxious and depressed – you have autism.”

GDA members

The report discovers that specific groups face additional barriers to mental health support. These include people who are newly disabled, young disabled people, LGBTQIA+ disabled people, and black and minority ethnic disabled people.

The social care crisis is increasingly creating mental health problems for disabled people. This is because disabled people are not getting the supports they need to lead a life of wellbeing. The social care crisis needs urgently solving in order to support disabled peoples’ mental health.

The report finds that during Covid-19, support provided by GDA did help disabled peoples’ wellbeing and their mental health needs. This seems to be because the support was provided with values that made a difference. These included meeting access needs without question, being free of charge, appreciating diversity among disabled people, and being based on human rights principles and community development approaches. Statutory and third sector services, and their funders, can learn from this.

The report has five sets of recommendations to inform statutory sector crisis and preventative mental health services, and third sector mental health and wellbeing initiatives. The keys are:

1. Involve and Listen to Disabled People.

2. Eliminate Barriers to Access.

3. Invest in accessible and holistic Wellbeing Services.

4. Address Gaps in Services.

5. Promote and Uphold Human Rights.

This GDA report makes a long-overdue contribution to a debate that has been ignored for far too long. You can read Disabled People’s Mental Health Matters here.

Richard Brunner

Centre for Disability Research

University of Glasgow

[email protected]

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