Disabled people 'forgotten' during pandemic as depression rates soar

People with disabilities say they feel "forgotten" about during the pandemic as figures show they are three times more likely to experience mental health issues.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 39% of disabled adults experienced depression during the latest lockdown compared to 13% of non-disabled people.

Helen Fincham from Bridgend was paralysed almost six years ago after developing a rare condition called transverse myelitis.

Helen said: "I woke up with neck ache when I was 21 and a few ours later I was completely paralysed.

"Nothing happened, there was no illness, there was no accident - so from day one it's been really hard to accept why I became paralysed from the start."

The 26-year-old has only left the house a "handful of times" since the start of the pandemic and said it's made living with a disability more difficult.

She said: "The hardest part was being completely isolated and alone and only seeing my carers."

Despite the challenges faced by people with disabilities during Covid, Helen believes some of the changes made to society and the way we work could benefit them in the long run.

"It's been a blessing in disguise," Helen said.

"Able bodied people have been able to see what it's like to live as a disabled person.

"We've seen that virtual online learning education and work can be done and that will help so many disabled people and the mental health side of it as well."

Natalie Williams from Ebbw Vale has Usher Syndrome which means affect her hearing.

She said she's lost confidence over the last year and feels forgotten by the government.

Natalie said: "Before the pandemic I was going out twice a week with my communicator guise and I was going on the on my own.

"I was getting more confident but since the pandemic I've lost it all, everything.

"I just feel like I'm a burden, I feel useless like I can't do anything. I've had a baby during the pandemic so that's been hard as well."

Disability charity Sense has said people with disabilities have been hit the hardest by the pandemic.

Sarah White, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Sense, said: "We'd like to see the government working with disabled people to find out why it's been such a challenging year and to put in place support measures as we move out of lockdown back to normal life so that disabled people are not left behind."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We know levels of anxiety are higher now than before the pandemic and some people – and groups – are more affected than others. For some, easing of the restrictions and the ability to see loved ones and do the things they enjoy will improve their mental health, but others will need access to more support.

"We are committed to ensuring support is equitable and accessible and that services are delivered in line with the all-Wales standard for communication and information for people with sensory loss.

“Regular meetings of Wales’ Disability Equality Forum have been held throughout the pandemic to hear about disabled people’s experiences and about the issues which are affecting them. This has been key to shaping our support.”