Invisible disability - Discrimination


People with invisible disabilities are often accused of their symptoms being made up, or being factitious due to lack of understanding of medical professionals.

Idea: A campaign involving posters that could be put up within DHB’s and medical clinics with, “Long history of seeking a diagnosis? Symptomatic with normal clinical results? Think disability!”  Accusing a patient of mental illness because their symptoms are caused by disability and not a disease is discrimination.

Why the contribution is important

Thousands of disabled New Zealander's are being falsely accused of mental illness. This causes emotional trauma, often resulting in the removal of support from their families, communities and access to disability supports they need for quality of life. Most medical professionals don't do this on purpose and an advertising campaign like that suggested may help them to understand disability needs to be looked for as well as medical diseases when a patient is presenting with symtoms they don't understand.

by Healthwatch on February 09, 2019 at 07:22PM

Current Rating

Average score : 5.0
Based on : 12 votes


  • Posted by Nijaw February 09, 2019 at 19:47

    This is a great idea.
  • Posted by Msjmip February 09, 2019 at 19:52

    It will help a lot of people.
  • Posted by HG123 February 10, 2019 at 10:02

    I support this idea. I have a family member with a disability that has experienced this discrimination.
  • Posted by warwick February 11, 2019 at 11:28

    When the medical fraternity dismisses people whose symptoms don't fit any known disease then sometimes those patients lose support from family and friends. I think this idea is wonderful--and very needed.
  • Posted by tally11 February 11, 2019 at 14:40

    Great idea here. The extremely long time it takes for some people to get an accurate diagnosis, and the accusations of mental illness (when it is actually a physical disability) is causing a lot of anguish.
  • Posted by Courier February 13, 2019 at 08:50

    This is a step towards helping people with invisible disabilites and I hope idea this is taken seriously.
    An invisible disablity is very hard on patients to contend with when they are not believed.
  • Posted by Julie February 15, 2019 at 15:13

    Much needed.
  • Posted by Petal February 21, 2019 at 22:34

    This is a fantastic idea. These individuals need a voice and need respect. The medical profession must stand with and for them, not against them.
  • Posted by PNWHC February 22, 2019 at 10:53

    It is critical that health care professionals are always be mindful that patients' symptoms may be due to an invisible disability/complex medical condition rather than an easily diagnosable disease. There are a wide range of invisible disabilities and conditions that do not show up on routine lab testing or x-rays/scans. Examples are chronic pain conditions, functional neurological conditions, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep disorders, connective tissue disorders and a number of autoimmune conditions. These conditions can cause various symptoms including pain, fatigue, weakness, dizziness and cognitive impairment that can significantly decrease quality of life for these people in spite of the fact that they do not have a visible disability.

    We are a visually oriented society where we are taught that “seeing is believing”, but this approach does not work with respect to numerous disabilities.

    An example we come across many times in our workplace is endometriosis, a condition that causes severe pain, manifested primarily in the pelvic region when menstruating. Endometriosis can only be definitively diagnosed by viewing the pelvic cavity at laparoscopy (key hole surgery), which is done in hospital under general anaesthetic by a gynaecologist with experience in this area. It does not show up on a lab test, and frequently cannot be detected on an ultrasound scan. Consequently the average time to diagnosis is just over nine years, in spite of the fact that 71% of the affected women rated their pain as severe and 79% had disruptions to their work attendance (with some struggling to work at all). Many of these women have their pain dismissed as “just bad period pain” or are even told that their problems are "all in their heads". Forty-five percent of these women see a doctor five or more times before they receive a diagnosis.

    A poster campaign would be useful to prompt health care professionals to think of other underlying medical conditions that may explain a patient’s symptoms when routine medical testing fails to provide a definitive diagnosis. This will help ensure these patients have access to the best treatments and support available to maximise their quality of life and their potential to participate in the community.

    Comment posted by staff of Te Haa o Hine-Ahu-Ohe Palmerston North Women's Health Collective
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