It feels like quite a momentous week with the news that blue badges are now going to cover what are known as ‘hidden disabilities’, writes Mansfield counsellor Jason Hanson,
This will cover such conditions as autism and of course, mental health.
I have been an active proponent of this initiative for some time, mainly because it would highlight another step in the right direction for raising awareness and combatting stigma.
I have worked with clients who have had difficulty attending sessions due to panic attacks, prohibiting them from leaving the house.
I have also worked with people affected by clinical depression who have experienced such low moods they have been unable to get out of bed.
One of the reasons I offer telephone counselling is because there are clients who are not quite ready to make the step of leaving their home, but who are desperate to address their mental health condition.
For most of us, attending for example the supermarket, is a natural task which requires little thought and causes little to no panic or concern.
However for somebody with a social phobia or a generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), this could be a very stressful situation, which could exacerbate anxious feelings.
This can often be made worse by having to either find a car parking space, or walk a distance to the store.
In effect, this means anxiety levels could be intensified prior to even entering the store.
Whilst this feels a wholly positive move, and one you would hope would be universally accepted, there are of course people who oppose this.
There still exists a notion that because mental health is non-tangible (only its effects will manifest), it does not exist
Then of course there are those who accept it, but feel that designated parking should be restricted to those with physical disabilities.
These people will say why would somebody with a mental health problem have any difficulty physically walking to the store?
There are many things in life most of us will see as routine.
However, somebody with a mental health problem may not.
It is easy to dismiss something which is not visible, and arguably difficult to accept something we have never ourselves experienced.
It is important, however, to consider that we all have different coping strategies and what may seem trivial to one person, may be a life changing situation to another.
This is a small step to gaining universal recognition and acceptance for something which has shattered many lives around the globe.
Only by truly accepting something, can we then begin to impact change.