Sometimes in Cyprus you can meet people who wear a special badge with a picture of sunflowers on it. The inscription Hidden Disabilities is printed on it. This means that its owners suffer from diseases, the signs of which are not visible. But this does not negate the fact that the disease significantly complicates the patient’s life. For example, chronic and autoimmune diseases, cancer, diabetes or other pathologies. Such people often need help from others. In Cyprus, few people know about the special sign. The Ministry of Health is not yet ready to support an educational campaign.
80% of disabled people have “invisible” illnesses
Disabilities are not always obvious and are not necessarily accompanied by mobility in a wheelchair. People who suffer from illnesses that are invisible to outsiders try to participate equally in everyday life. The only difference is that it takes more effort for them to do so than for others. In Cyprus, 80% of people with disabilities suffer from an invisible disease.
A patient told about a special sign in Tik Tok
Pantelina Vasiliou has been struggling with anorexia for many years. Repeatedly she was treated in clinics abroad. Some time ago she made a video for Tik Tok. With it, the author tried to draw attention to the special badge with sunflowers, which is worn by those who suffer from invisible illnesses.
The same badge as Pantelina’s is worn by Yannos Samaras, who has thalassemia. His left arm is paralyzed. For a long time he was confined to a wheelchair, but now he tries to get around on his own.
In Cyprus, the badge can only be obtained at two airports
Both Pantelina and Yannos face challenges every day. “I have chronic anorexia nervosa. Many times there were situations when I needed help in public places, on the plane, in the supermarket and in the stores,” says Pantelina.
To show those around them that they may need help or need more time than usual in their daily duties, they use a sunflower badge. Such badges are common in the United Kingdom. They are issued in hospitals to people with invisible ailments and distributed for free in public places.
In Cyprus, such a badge can be found only in Larnaca and Paphos airports. This is made possible by the efforts of the Cyprus Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease Association.
People are indifferent. So is the Ministry of Health.
But using it on the island is often pointless: No one knows what it means. People just walk past Jannos or Pantelina, even when it’s obvious they need help. “I’ve been wearing such a badge since 2020 and only twice in all that time has it been noticed in supermarkets. In one case, an employee cautiously asked if I needed any help, and in the second, an employee knew about it because he happened to read an article online,” Pantelina says.
The activists applied to the Ministry of Health with a request to make the sunflower badge official. The Ministry explained that they were considering the request, but did not guarantee that it would be approved.