Wednesday, December 3, 2008

World Disability Day

Today December 3rd is World Disability Day. A time for those struck by a disability so challenging to remind the world that we exist. A time for our resilience to bring forth awe in those around us. Because we are resilient. We live in a world of unspeakable difficulties, a world where perfection is given the highest regard and yet we live, to make the most of everyday.

The Government of India did not recognize Mental Illness as a disability till last year. Is it because it is less obvious (visible) than other disabilities? But really how can we define what is truly disabling?

“The official definition of persons of disability includes a person suffering from not less than forty per cent of any disability as certified by a medical authority.” “Deciding the quantum of disability as forty per cent is not practically possible in case of Mental Illness. Patients suffering from mental illness will be unable to obtain a certificate from a qualified medical practitioner stating that they suffer from forty per cent mental illness. This brings about discrimination amongst disabled persons prejudicing the interests of mentally ill persons.”

According to Ratna Chibber, President Aasha, “A person with MI does not probably have any visible disability and hence faces discrimination from the law makers, government bodies, prospective employers while also grappling with stigma and discrimination of every day existence. There needs to more awareness about mental illness and its effects on the body and mind. There have been instances when people viewed a mentally ill person who is not performing at work or study as a “lazy person”, just giving excuses”, without realizing that the individual is unable to perform and his condition is as disabling as any other physical disability.”

We have to lobby harder for the rights of individuals with mental illness to give them a better quality of life and provide them with access to all legal and social regulations that are awarded to other disabilities.

I would like to add that only last year (2007) India ratified its position on including mental illness as a disability and if was not for the few individuals and organizations whose voices echoed the hallowed hallways of policy makers repeatedly this would not have been possible.

AASHA Rehabilitation Home in Selaiyur, Chennai #mentalhealth #rehabilitation #recovery #livingwithdignity