Physical disabilities may affect, either temporarily or permanently, a person’s ability to perform and participate in physical activities including movement (mobility).
There are may different causes of physical disabilities but they can include inherited or genetic disorders, serious illnesses, and injury. In many countries in Africa, disabilities are generally viewed as been physical. There is little knowledge among the general population about other types of disabilities. The most common types of physical disabilities in Africa include;
- Accquired Brain Injury
- Spinal Cord Injury
- Spina Bifida
- Cerebral Palsy
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Tourette Syndrome
People with physical disabilities are usually experts in their own needs, and will understand the impact of their disability. Ask them first before offering to help or provide any type of assistance.
For some people, their physical disabilities may be temporary (as a result of a minor body injury) while other may be more long term and permanent. Physical disabilities may exist from birth or be acquired later in life. People with the same disability are as likely as anyone else to have different abilities.
What to Remember
- Always ask before offering assistance.
- Be at the same level when talking with the person.
- Never assume that a person with physical disability also has intellectual disability.
- Ask permission before touching a person’s wheelchair or mobility aid.
Mental Health and Mental Illness
Mental health refers to the emotional, psychological, and social well-being of person. It affects how a person think, feel, and act as they cope with daily life. It is also determines how an a person may deal with stress and make their own choices and decisions.
Mental illness affects a person’s thoughts, mood, or behavior. It is a condition that mostly affects the way a person functions in life. Some mental health conditions are temporary while others may be permanent.
Examples of some mental illnesses include:
- Anxiety disorders
- Eating disorder
There are some mental health conditions like depression that are extremely common and are likely to go on for years with out any diagnosis or be misdiagnosed. In many African countries, people with mental health conditions are often called (crazy, sick in the head, mumu, etc). These descriptions are disrespectful to the person and should never be used to describe anyone with a mental health condition. When a person with a mental illness receives the right treatment and support, they can lead productive lives (get a job, marry, have children, go to school, etc). People who have intellectual or developmental disabilities and mental illness are sometimes labeled as having a “dual diagnosis.”
A person with a mental health condition may experience difficulty concentrating sometimes, which can be a result of medication they are prescribed. Try to avoid overly stressful situations wherever possible so that their condition is not exacerbated. AADISAO would like to inform you that mental illness is not “Witchcraft” and can not be cured by a voodoo doctor, spiritualist, or traditional healer. There is little to no scientific data to supports the concept that people with mental illness can be cure by a witch doctor as is believe in most traditional settings in some African settings.
What to Remember
- Provide clear and thorough explanations and instructions, in writing if required.
- Ask the person how they would like to receive information.
- Allow more time and greater flexibility for training and induction.
AADISAO pledges to provide essential resources in terms of new research, policy advocacy, training and support to organizations and professionals working in the mental health field in Africa.