UNITED STATES—The evolution of man-made disabilities in America.

Once knowledge about harmful substances and practices evolved, we banned them. Working children for long hours, environmental pollutants, primitive practices, and bone-breaking violence. All prior to 18 and all taking away a child’s potential for a full uninhibited life before they are old enough to flee.

Laws to stop these body-crippling factors were created. Then laws had to be made to stop discrimination and protect those that were already affected. Whether it was man-made or inherited: knowledge and equality has evolved for those with disabilities that you can see and sympathize with. Society forced recognition and treatment of those with physical disabilities improved.

I do not feel that way about mental health issues.

Take PTSD as an example of a mental illness with the root cause of trauma, yet the causal traumatic behaviors and acts still exist. There are many other mental health conditions that include trauma as a factor and frighteningly, the Annual Statistical Report on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program (2013) shows that 1 out of every 3 persons who receive disability do so for mental health impairments. Also disheartening is the 2015 report from the National Institute of Mental Health that says 1 in 5 children aged 13-18 have or have had a “debilitating” mental illness.

Let us go back to the positive and revel that we live in a world that has evolved to practice preventative care that stops disabilities! I must believe that the way we understand and learn to prevent mental health will catch up, eventually.

The language we use to describe the disabled has certainly evolved! There is a People First term in America that some of you may not know, called being “Differently-Abled.” It means that just because a person is disabled, it does not dictate that they be useless.

Some have goals they work on every day. Others use their limitation as motivation to persevere. Some strive for the ultimate American Ideal: to support family, be an asset to society, or at the minimum: be something other than a disability statistic. This is why disabled persons can be found working across America.

The premise of this specific People First term is to teach that disabled people are able, just differently-abled than the average human. A physically-disabled person may be unable to do the job of a chimney sweep, but can do the accounting 10 hours a week. That same person who can only do 10 hours per week outside of the home may be able to work a sit down job in the home, such as telephone work for 60 hours a week. This is longer than the American full-time standard, making the disabled individual a potential asset if lucky enough to find an appreciative employer.

As we enter this conclusion, I think I have explained to satisfactory extent, why I must say that the evolution of disabilities in America is much like a game of Chutes and Ladders. Just as we take progressive steps forward with creations such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, disability-causing factors rear in other places, so we take just as many steps back.

Main image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons