‘Hidden disability’ sufferers at risk

A Dorset woman has reacted to a recent study which showed that people with mental health problems face stigma and discrimination.

Debbie suffers from two chronic illnesses which have had an impact on her mental health. Photo: Linked In
Debbie suffers from various ‘hidden disabilities’ which have made her the target of a hate crime.

Debbie Clifton, 55, from Ferndown, suffers from two chronic conditions which have made her anxious and depressed.

“My Fibromyalgia, my Addison’s disease and my mental health issues are a ‘hidden disability’ because people tend to make assumptions based on the way you look, and if you’re not in a wheelchair, for example, then they’ll assume that there’s nothing wrong with you”, she said.

Last year, Debbie became the victim of a disability hate crime when someone scratched her car which was parked in a disabled space – even though it had a badge.

This corroborates the findings of the study, which are based on data collected across Bournemouth Dorset and Poole, which shows that nearly nine out of 10 people with mental health problems have been affected by stigma and discrimination.

“The stigma attached to my ‘invisible’ illness has affected every aspect of my life. I feel like I have to keep explaining myself to others and I find it hard to do simple things like going to the shops or going to a pub”, said Debbie.

But Debbie’s not alone. Last year 24,851 other people across Dorset were classed as suffering from depression and/or anxiety.

According to the findings of the study by JSNA, stigma and fear can stop people with hidden disabilities such as chronic pain and mental health issues form seeking help at the early stages of their problem.This is why it’s crucial to widen our understanding of the problem and deal with it responsibly.

Click below to hear about Debbie’s hate crime and the stigma she faces in her daily life.


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