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  • The Griffin

How disabilities and mental health go hand in hand

By Madison Serapilio, Features Contributor

Hi, I’m Madison, a freshman here at Canisius. With this new opportunity of writing for the paper, I would love to advocate for people with disabilities and mental health issues. I feel I have a personal connection to the realm of disabilities because my aunt has autism and Down syndrome, and because this summer I began working at Rochester Rotary Sunshine Campus, which is a camp for people with all kinds of disabilities. Over the years of hanging with my aunt, I realized that people with disabilities are just like you and me, especially when it comes to those suffering from mental illnesses, and that idea was reinforced when I was working with my campers one-on-one. For instance, some people — particularly those with autism — might be more prone to panic attacks due to overstimulation, while others might struggle with depression due to bullying. Even though this article is something small, I’m hoping that it makes an impact on someone's life.

Although it may not be very apparent to some, disabilities and mental health are typically tied together. This is because many people with disabilities also face mental illness. For instance, people with ADHD, like my sister, often struggle with anxiety and/or depression. However, one thing that many people with mental health issues can relate to (whether they have a disability or not) is that they all have something that keeps them going — a special interest, per say. A special interest can basically be defined as an intense curiosity and drive to learn more surrounding a specific topic or subject matter, and this could be literally anything; it all comes down to the individual and how their unique thoughts and experiences are different. For example, some people can be very interested in trains, while others may be really into different types of graphs; like I said before, everyone is unique! When it comes to me, I think I have multiple special interests and some of them are plants, art and musicals (specifically “RENT,” the musical by Jonathan Larson). Not only that, but people who struggle with mental health might have things that keep them going throughout the day, interests that help them get up every morning. I think it’s amazing that people can love a topic so much that it makes their lives better, even if it’s a small amount.

I would love to give people a space to talk about their special interests, or just what excites them in general, without the fear of being made fun of or being ignored. So with that in mind, I am hoping that people will reach out to me or the editors of The Griffin (emails listed below) and share their special interests in a safe space. The information that is shared with us can be anonymous or people can have their names put in. I’m really excited to see how this goes, and I hope others enjoy this as much as I do!

(Madison Serapilio

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