How misunderstanding of disability and stigma affect mental health

How misunderstanding of disability and stigma affect mental health

About 26% of Americans have a disability, either physical or mental, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Advocates say there is a lot of misunderstanding about a person with a disability. And this stigma is not only deep – it can also have a huge impact on that individual’s mental health.

Twenty-eight-year-old Chloe Valentine Toscano knows beauty, from her fashion week walks to her Instagram clips to posting in magazines like Allure.

“I’m a writer,” she said. “I’m someone who likes pink. I like butterflies. I like to learn a lot about anyone and anything.” “I think we all have our differences, and I want to understand the differences.”

She also fought head-on with ugly mental health struggles caused by doctors who did not understand her disability.

“It’s a journey,” said Valentin Toscano.

She lost motor function from her elbow down in 2014. She adapted and spent years living with – as she calls it – a heavyweight. She entered Paralympic swimming and began her career.

Then, after years of searching and soul searching, she chose to have her arm amputated.

“I know that amputation can be very painful because some people, a lot of people, will suffer it through trauma,” she said. “But that wasn’t where I was in my case. So, it wasn’t painful to talk about it, but it was painful to play a yes and no match.”

Valentin Toscano spent three years struggling to have the operation. She says some surgeons told her that any elective amputation was risky, even though she was otherwise healthy. Other refusals came after surgery was approved and scheduled.

The answer I got from one said, “Well, some people just need to learn to live with what they have.” This made me feel like someone else who wasn’t in my body was telling me what was best for me.” “I was so frustrated to have someone say that and so insulting.”

Physical autonomy – or the right to control what happens to your body – is a common struggle in the disability community. Disability experts say misunderstandings are common and can cause undue stress as well as affect a person’s mental health.

The Valentin Toscano case, it has happened many times.

She recounted that on one date, “I cried, broke down and felt like the moment I expressed those feelings, he sent me for a psychological evaluation, which I felt was being punished for expressing feelings.” She then described the examination, saying, “She was asking me, and she said, ‘Do you find yourself unattractive because of your arm and that you would be more attractive without it?'” ‘ And I said, ‘It’s not about that at all. It was never about that.” …I got angry and belittled and didn’t hear, because I was asking for one thing and being evaluated for something that wasn’t even far off.”

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Linda Mona has spent the past two decades working on disability and how it relates to health care.

“If you haven’t come across it personally — you haven’t been exposed to it by being a family friend, lover, whatever — and you haven’t been called to do it professionally and you don’t see it around you, don’t even think about it.”

Unfortunately, she says, the Valentin Toscano experience is very common. Mental health professionals are rarely experienced or experienced in the field of disability.

“Finding someone can be difficult,” Mona said. “The other thing to think about is the steps that come before that, which is that it’s very difficult for people to access education if they have a disability, let alone graduate studies. Internships and fellowship…”

An anonymous survey conducted in 2021 of graduating medical students showed that 7.6% of them had a disability. But data collected directly from medical schools shows that only about 4% of medical students disclose their disability.

The stigma against disability – whether physical or mental – runs deep.

From 1867 to 1974, American cities had laws regulating who could be in public. The laws included fines or imprisonment for those deemed “sick, maimed, or maimed in any way.”

Mona says it’s a federal bias in favor of healthy people.

She said, “You’re at your best at home. It’s better to be away from you. Or, better to be institutionalized away by anyone else who is unhappy with the way you look.”

She adds that structural stigmas have fueled misconceptions about people with disabilities making decisions about their bodies.

Lindsey Newssi are: When we talk about bodily autonomy, what kind of effect can’t it have a long-term impact on someone’s mental health?

Linda Mona: Trying to make it happen and making your own decisions can have a huge impact on your mental health in the long run. …as often happens with pregnancy and people with disabilities. right? So, you know, someone has some kind of mental-cognitive difference or physical difference. There are, you know, constant questions about, you know, “Do you want to get pregnant? Do you know what this is going to do to your body? … I don’t think anyone thinks these kinds of decisions are a simple decision. It’s complicated. But you have to.” Trust that someone made that decision with this context in mind and don’t assume they were uninformed.

In the summer of 2021, Valentin Toscano underwent an amputation. Call it a dream come true.

“I just felt so happy,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ “I got this to be a huge step in my life. I felt like one of those, like, huge dreams. I got there. I got a huge part of my personality back right away.”

Toscano uses a prosthetic limb as needed. It is a light pink and purple with a lot of shimmer.

“If I could have been born with my arms on it with butterflies and glitter, as if I were right outside the womb, I would have chosen,” she said.

Toscano said its synthetics cost $13,000.

“It’s a very expensive thing,” she said. “I’ve been fortunate to have it covered by health insurance. But it’s not something everyone enjoys.”

Toscano continues to advocate and write, and now shares her experience of two different aspects of disability. She also writes a book on the side.

She says that being able to share those stories in her own voice and have others listen is not only good for her well-being, it’s really beautiful.

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