Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health

People with disabilities can face many unique problems and challenges, which may place them at increased risk for depression. These include: limited mobility, poor access to buildings and services, social barriers and isolation, unemployment, complex communications needs and ongoing health problems such as chronic pain.

The complexities and demands of a disability like cerebral palsy can sometimes mean that the emotional health of a person with cerebral palsy is overlooked. When a person’s disability also prevents them from communicating easily with others, their capacity to express and talk about feelings and emotions is also limited.

How to talk about feelings and emotions

  • Ensure there are adequate communication tools/choices that allow for feelings and emotions to be expressed for children and adults with complex communication needs.
  • Use natural events to talk about the associated feelings, thoughts and emotions – e.g. running late, feeling sick, someone passing away, being tired, missing the bus, losing something important.
  • Take time to talk to your friend or family member who has cerebral palsy about feelings and emotions. It’s also important to note that people’s experiences and how they express their feelings can vary.

To support people with cerebral palsy who may show early signs of mental health concerns, Cerebral Palsy Alliance’s clinical psychologists and family support services provide clients and their families with access to a range of programs to help enhance an individual’s emotional wellbeing through building their capacity and confidence to participate in their local community.

Stress triggers for a person with cerebral palsy can include:

  • Not being able to communicate clearly
  • Not being understood
  • Not feeling in control
  • Having few friends
  • Not having much to do
  • Feeling left out
  • Health problems

Early signs and symptoms of depression

  • Not sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Not eating or eating too much
  • Blaming yourself for things
  • Talking about death
  • Not feeling like doing anything
  • Withdrawing from activities and conversations
  • Feeling worthless

Early signs and symptoms of anxiety

  • Fast heart beat
  • Jumpy
  • Dizzy, shaky, sweaty, nauseous
  • Avoiding doing things
  • Fidgety
  • Upset
  • Worried about small things