Challenges to mental health 51
If the stress is sudden and severe, you may feel these changes in your body. Then,
once the stress is gone, your body returns to normal. But if the stress is less severe
or happens slowly, you may not notice how the stress is affecting your body, even
though the signs are still there.
Stress that goes on for a long time can lead to the physical signs common in
anxiety and depression, such as headache, intestinal problems, and lack of energy.
Over time, stress can also cause illness, such as high blood pressure.
Social barriers create stress
Many of the same barriers that prevent women with disabilities from getting health
care also cause stress in their daily lives. Since they face so many sources of stress, it
is especially important for women with disabilities to find the support they need to
feel strong and confident in their abilities, and maintain their
Gender is the way a
It’s not fair. They get
to go to school and I
have to stay home
community defines what
it means to be a man or a
woman. In communities that
do not value girls as much as
boys, girls experience more
stress. Your brothers may
be given more education
or more food. You may be
criticized a lot. Your hard
work may go unnoticed. A
girl with a disability is much
more likely to be treated
this way than a girl without
a disability or a boy with a disability. As you grow up, you may not believe you
deserve to be treated well by your partner and family, to have health care when you
are sick, or to develop your skills. When you feel this way, you may even think your
lack of importance in the family and community is natural and right—when, in
fact, it is unfair and unjust.
When a family is poor, it is harder for a disabled girl or woman to get the skills she needs
to work. She may not get the hearing aids or crutches she needs in order to go to school.
If a disabled girl or woman does not have a chance to help support the family, they may
treat her like a burden. If the family has only a little food, they may decide more food
should go to the family members who go out to work and help support them.
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007