Women With Physical Disabilities And Mental Health Problems


by guest
2nd December, 2010 at 9:36 am    

This is a cross post by Sarah Ismail

Earlier this year, PhD student Julia Smith published a study that raises a very interesting issue. She interviewed 12 women aged 18-65 with physical disabilities who also have mental health issues, in an attempt to find out whether mental health services in the UK currently meet the needs of users who also have physical disabilities.

The results were summarised for the guest column of the most recent issue of Disability Now magazine.

The issue is one I had not thought about before, but after reading this article I realise that it is an important one that deserves and needs more detailed study.

A few points that come to my mind about the research methods used by Julia Smith are:

For an issue like this it is an advantage that qualitative interviews, rather than questionnaires, were used as this allowed participants to explain their experiences in detail, which then gave the researcher a clearer idea of the situations faced by the group she was researching.

The wide age range of the group of women interviewed is another advantage, as mental health problems can develop at any stage in life and may improve or become more serious over a person’s lifetime- and also as that person’s level of physical disability improves or becomes more serious.

The number of women interviewed (sample size, for those who know sociology) is very small. I would like to hope that this is because there are not many physically disabled women with mental health problems around to be studied- unfortunately, I think that’s wishful thinking.

One more realistic reason for this small sample size, however, could be that the number of physically disabled women who have mental health problems and can communicate verbally is very small. A number of physically disabled people who do not have verbal communication use multiple choice to communicate. Such women would not have been able to participate in detailed face to face interviews- although they would most probably have been able to complete a multiple choice questionnaire. So while a larger sample would have been very useful, this would have required giving participants a choice between detailed spoken interviews and less detailed, written, multiple choice questionnaires.

Also, nothing has been said about the race of the group of women interviewed. This may have made a difference to the women’s experiences, as women from ethnic minority groups with physical disabilities and mental health problems are likely to face four times as much discrimination from professionals.

Another disadvantage of the study is that no men were interviewed, so the results of the research cannot be applied to men. The issue being researched is as important for men as it is for women, so it would be very useful and interesting to know the results of similar research which could be carried out on a group of physically disabled men with mental health issues, or a group of both men and women with physical disabilities and mental health issues.

If you are interested in reading the full piece of research, it is available online here.


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  1. sunny hundal

    Blogged: : Women With Physical Disabilities And Mental Health Problems http://bit.ly/hSfO2U


  2. James Thomas

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Women With Physical Disabilities And Mental Health Problems http://bit.ly/hSfO2U


  3. Bryan

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Women With Physical Disabilities And Mental Health Problems http://bit.ly/hSfO2U


  4. Brianna Young

    Women With Physical Disabilities And Mental Health Problems …: She interviewed 12 women aged 18-65 with physic… http://bit.ly/fSf41R


  5. katefullcot

    Women With Physical Disabilities And Mental Health Problems …: She interviewed 12 women aged 18-65 with physic… http://bit.ly/eJFoBs


  6. Jo Pastner

    Women With Physical Disabilities And Mental Health Problems …: She interviewed 12 women aged 18-65 with physic… http://bit.ly/eJFoBs


  7. Noxi

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Women With Physical Disabilities And Mental Health Problems http://bit.ly/hSfO2U


  8. Sonia Ali

    RT @sunny_hundal: Women With Physical Disabilities And Mental Health Problems | Sarah Ismail in PickledPolitics http://bit.ly/hSfO2U




  1. Michelle — on 2nd December, 2010 at 2:21 pm  

    In my experience, once you add mental health into anything you have what I can only call ‘problems of understanding’. I spent years having a disabling back condition ignored because it was assumed that it was a symptom of depression, no matter what I said. Recently, I awoke from a deep sleep with what appears to have been an asthma attack. What did the doctor ask me after looking at the list of medications I take regularly? “Do you have panic attacks?” Well yes, sometimes I do. But not usually when I’m fast asleep! It is possible to have a physical illness or disability as well as a mental health issue contrary to the apparent believe of many doctors.

  2. Dave Spart — on 3rd December, 2010 at 4:48 am  

    Is it April 1st yet or is this a genuine post. If its the latter, all I can say is … boring and yawn.

  3. Kismet Hardy — on 3rd December, 2010 at 9:28 am  

    I feel compelled to say ‘dave don’t be so rude, this is a serious matter’ but jesus the lad has a point. Something I couldn’t find in the article.

  4. Sofia — on 3rd December, 2010 at 10:47 am  

    This is a really interesting post and thank you for highlighting it. Long term physical disability can go hand in hand with mental illness and is probably more prevalent than people think. The definition of mental illness itself can be problematic as it can range from short term depression to long term more serious mental illness. In some cases I’m sure there are those with long term disabilities who go through periods of mental illness throughout their lives and sometimes the reaction from GPs is horrendous! There is a general lack of understanding that social environments have a huge part to play in the mental wellbeing of those with long term disabilities.
    Looking at the mental health stats anyway show quite significantly the disparity between the treatment of Black people with mental illness in general.

    BTW Dave you’re negative comments are pathetic.

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