disability to a trusted mentor, though she kept the exact nature
of her illnesses private.
Gammon says that borderline personality disorder was
highly stigmatized among her mental health colleagues, and
recounts times when other students or clinicians would speak
negatively about patients with the disorder, not realizing she
had the same diagnosis.
But when she told her internship supervisors about her
condition, they were supportive. She also learned self-care
measures to help cope with her disability, such as taking more
breaks, asking for flexible work scheduling, and seeking natural
or full-spectrum lighting to combat depression.
Gammon recently completed a postdoc fellowship at the
University of Colorado at Boulder’s student counseling center
and is awaiting Colorado licensure. She plans to open a private
practice in Denver, with a focus on working with emerging and
She also has promoted mental health education and
awareness to university communities — from students to
faculty and staff — through lectures and presentations, and has
coordinated student groups dedicated to helping people with
mental illness. Long term, she hopes to serve young adults with
psychiatric and other disabilities at a systemic, administrative or
political level, she says.
She says the ADA has “significantly benefited” her by
supporting the legitimacy of her “invisible” disability. “This
has been critical in a world where people often lack awareness
about, dismiss or misunderstand the connection between
mental illness and disability.”
But on the other hand, she says, the ADA’s focus seems
primarily to have been on those with “visible” disabilities,
such as with accommodations for accessibility and public
transportation. “I sometimes feel overlooked — as though I’m
not fully included in the movement,” she says.
She also has felt frustrated and disappointed by the pressure
to hide her disability from professors, supervisors, colleagues
Still, her career has been rewarding, helping her to
“overcome obstacles presented by my own mental illness so that
I am now able to truly help others through their struggles with
mental health conditions,” she says. She is able to relate to them,
due to her own struggles, in a way that is “greatly beneficial
to the therapeutic relationship,” while also inspiring hope for
Staying happy, no matter what
The ADA has been in place for as long as H’Sien Hayward,
PhD, has used a wheelchair, ensuring — or at least offering
the hope of — physical access to buildings, transportation and
recreational activities: “All the things that are so necessary for
full societal inclusion,” she says.
Hayward became paralyzed at 16 after a car accident. At
the time, a psychiatrist told her to expect to feel depressed
and suicidal. Yet Hayward, now 38, never felt that way.
Despite the day-to-day challenges of living in a wheelchair,
“by and large, my life post-injury was just as good as it was
Hayward was so struck by the disconnect between the
happiness she felt and the research literature that mainly
explored the loss felt by people with disabilities that she
made happiness the focus of her studies and her career. She
researched post-traumatic growth, first at Stanford and later
at Harvard, where she earned her PhD in social psychology in
2013. She also studied with happiness researcher Martin E.P.
Seligman, PhD, at the University of Pennsylvania, learning
optimism-training techniques for people with disabilities.
In her dissertation, she found that the quality of life for
people with disabilities can be just as good — if not better —
than for people without disability.
“I sometimes feel overlooked — as though
I’m not fully included in the movement,” says
Hannah Gammon, PsyD, who has a psychiatric