50 chapter 3: Mental health
Challenges to mental health
Stress, discrimination, isolation, and traumatic events are some of the challenges to
mental health that women with disabilities face. Of course, not everyone who has to
cope with these problems will develop mental health problems. Stress, for example,
is not a mental health problem, although when you can no longer cope with the
challenges you face, too much stress has become a problem. Traumatic events in
your life do not always cause mental health problems, but if you have no support in
trying to understand them and work through them emotionally, they often do.
When thinking about mental health problems, remember:
• There is no clear line between normal responses to life’s events and mental
• Most people have some of the signs described in this chapter at different times
in their lives, because everyone faces problems at one time or another.
• Signs of mental health problems can vary from community to community.
Behavior that looks strange to an outsider may be a normal part of a
community’s traditions or values.
If you think someone has a mental health problem
If you suspect someone has a mental health problem, get to know her
better. Listen to what other people are saying about her behavior
and the ways she has changed. Since mental health problems
often have roots in the family or community, think about how
these may contribute to the problem. But not all mental health
problems have causes that can be identified. Sometimes we just do not know why
someone develops a mental health problem.
When you face a lot of stress every day and for a long time, you
may begin to feel overwhelmed and unable to cope. The problem
may be made worse if you have been taught not to value yourself
and to neglect your own needs.
Do I really
have a nervous
Physical changes and disease caused by stress
When you experience stress, your body gets ready to react quickly
and fight off the stress. Some of the changes that occur are:
• The heart starts beating faster.
• The blood pressure goes up.
• A person breathes faster.
• Digestion slows down.
You may be made to feel
you are weak or ill. But
the real problem may be
something that is not fair
or not right in life.
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007