Hesperian Health Guides

Families and communities can promote mental health

In this chapter:

Families that encourage and build on the strengths of girls and women with disabilities promote their mental health. The way your family and community treats you shapes how you value yourself. When family and community expect you to do well at things and want you to do your best, you will likely grow up with a strong sense of self-esteem, be strong in your inner self, and learn that you are capable.

Families and communities need to:

  • recognize disabled women and girls as fully contributing members.
  • show by example that they value and accept girls as much as boys, and disabled girls and women as equally as others.
  • support girls with disabilities during the teenage years when they change from girls to women. They need the same knowledge and treatment as other girls in their community. It is important they be encouraged to dress according to their age and recognize their sexuality as young women.
  • support girls and women with disabilities who have mental health problems.

Families, teachers, health workers and others can all help by focusing on what you can do rather than what you cannot do, such as:

  • believe you can live a happy and fulfilling life, and contribute to your community.
  • encourage you to try new things and do things for yourself, instead of over-protecting and doing everything for you.
  • make sure you help at home and contribute to the family business.
a doctor who uses a crutch speaking while she examines a child.
From the time I was a little girl, I wanted to be a doctor. My parents believed in me. They told me I could do anything I wanted and helped me to realize my dream.

Educate girls with disabilities

Girls with disabilities need to go to school and learn with other children. A disabled girl is more likely to have strong self-esteem if her family finds a way for her to go to school and the school makes a place for her. Work with other families to make schools accept children with all kinds of disabilities. Talk with teachers to help them understand your daughter’s strengths and to raise their awareness about disabilities. Help the school understand how to include her in different activities.

Girls with disabilities need an education and need to learn skills that enable them to get jobs. They will then be able to support themselves and contribute to their families and communities.

a woman speaking to another while a young disabled girl sits nearby shelling peas.
Enlin has already learned so much! If she goes to school she will have more opportunities to help the family and also prepare for her own future.

This page was updated:30 Nov 2023