by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern
Being part of the blind and low vision community often means having to be vigilant when it comes to health concerns. Many eye disorders share comorbidities with other illnesses, worsen with neglect, and can render it more difficult to detect symptoms of other health problems that are frequently observed visually, such as Lyme disease and cirrhosis. Most notable among the health issues that often remain overlooked regardless of one’s degree of sight, however, are those related to mental health. It’s significant to raise the issue during May, Mental Health Awareness Month, which according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) seeks to “fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for policies that support the millions of people in the U.S. affected by mental illness.” Mental health issues are especially relevant in relation to vision loss. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that one in four adults with visual impairments experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, compared to about one in six in the general population. This study also found that adults with a visual impairment under the age of 65 were five times as likely to report symptoms of anxiety or depression than those over the age of 65, potentially due to a lack of effective coping and self-management skills. These statistics, while concerning, imply that many mental health symptoms related to visual impairment can be helped through understanding and managing one’s eye condition. To ameliorate these issues, it’s best to learn as much as you can about your condition, meet with a therapeutic counselor, and explore how assistive devices can help maintain your quality of life. Read more about vision impairment and mental health in this CDC article, Vision Loss and Mental Health. Additional information on Mental Health Awareness Month can be found on the NAMI website, including the social media #MoreThanEnough campaign.