The pandemic has had a devastating impact on people across the country. For people with disabilities, who already face a lot of social isolation to begin with, COVID-19 has only exacerbated mental-health challenges.
A recent study found adults with disabilities report experiencing more mental distress than those without disabilities.
Dr. Sharon McLennon-Wier, executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled-New York, said during Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important to recognize the barriers to receiving mental-health treatment people with disabilities face.
“For a person with a disability, who has issues with transportation and traveling, may feel stuck that they can’t physically go out and seek services,” McLennon-Wier explained. “Because of their limited incomes, may feel that they can’t afford mental-health services.”
McLennon-Wier added mental-health resources are available through telehealth for people who may face transportation challenges. In New York, psychologists, social workers, mental-health counselors and marriage and family therapists are permitted to deliver services virtually.
The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation estimates 22 million people nationwide may identify as a person with a disability as a result of complications from long COVID.
McLennon-Wier said the major life change may be difficult for people to grapple with, but they should know they are not alone.
“That person who is newly disabled is going to have a lot of different emotions tied to the diagnosis,” McLennon-Wier noted. “So it takes time to adapt and to rethink how you typically have done things that you’re unable to do the same way.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, long COVID can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act if it significantly impacts major life activities.
In New York, Mount Sinai’s Center for Post-COVID Care offers resources to manage anxiety and depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and other emotional issues as a result of lingering symptoms.