by REED CARR, CSU Public Relations Intern
Hidden disabilities like anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder often go undiagnosed until college. Because of that “invisibility,” stigma surrounding hidden disabilities has caused a lack of discussion on the validity and effects of these conditions.
“The most misunderstood disabilities are those that you can’t visually see someone struggling,” said Julie Snow, director of Accessibility Resources at Minnesota State Mankato. “Typically when we think of disabilities, we think of those with physical disabilities. Those who use a wheel chair or a guide dog or a mobility or hearing disability who have an interpreter.”
‘I think when folks are honest and reach out, that first reaction can be telling and can end up guiding the next step and whether they disclose again.’
– Julie Snow, Director of Accessibility Resources
Snow said the Accessibility Resources Office works to accommodate all students with an existing diagnosis and welcomes those who have yet to seek help. From note-taking services to reduced course load to alternative testing, the office works to make campus more user-friendly and accepting.
“The Accessibility Resources Office has over 800 registered students with a variety of different types of disabilities,” said Snow“With anxiety and depression, it’s very common to be first diagnosed as college students. We have students who maybe didn’t struggle with those issues growing up or in their high school career but it kind of bubbles up and surfaces now.”
Keeping this topic in conversation is crucial to shine light on parts of the conditions that aren’t easily recognized by someone who doesn’t live with them. Snow’s primary message is that if we can take a step back to listen and be approachable, we can change how society perceives the reality of living with a hidden disability.
“Misconceptions can come from both sides,” Snow said. “I might be reluctant to ask for help even though the person I need help from would be happy to if they knew. It’s kind of a two-way street in that respect. I think when folks are honest and reach out, that first reaction can be telling and can end up guiding the next step and whether they disclose again.”
Showing sensitivity and showing awareness with our vocabulary is the easiest way to help make people with disabilities feel more comfortable and willing to seek help.
“Keep the needs of folks with disabilities in mind whether it’s a physical or mental disability. It can impact someone’s feeling of being welcome and accepted. Think about them in advance.”
MSU is working hard to accommodate students with disabilities. Mutual effort between students and faculty to unveil the issue will continue to improve understanding and acceptance.