National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Mental Health Support
NDIS mental health support is not what you may think.
The usual aim of the mental health system is to reduce your symptoms and, where possible, prevent relapses of mental illness. These support services will help anyone with a mental illness.
But the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) focus is twofold: 1) to empower people with a disability to become independent; 2) where necessary, support people with a disability in their day-to-day activities.
The NDIS is not about replacing regular mental health services, but about doing something completely different. The purpose of NDIS mental health support is to help people with psychosocial disability function in a way they wouldn’t be able to without that support.
Understanding the Difference Between “Psychosocial Disability” and “Mental Health Condition”
Mental health conditions are a range of psychiatric issues that affect a person, typically for life. They include such mental health issues as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder.
Not everyone who lives with mental ill health has a disability.
Psychosocial disabilities are the term for people who have difficulty managing their everyday tasks because of their mental illness.
6 Areas a Psychosocial Disability Can Affect
Under the NDIS, your mental health needs to prevent you from being able to carrying out the activities in one or more of these areas without support.
|Communication||Being understood and understanding others through spoken, written, or sign language.|
|Social interaction||Making and keeping friends, take part in the community, behave within limits others accept as standard, and coping with feelings and emotions in social settings.|
|Learning||Understanding and remembering information, learning new things, and practicing and using new skills.|
|Mobility||Moving around your home and the community so you can take part in ordinary activities that usually require the use of limbs.|
|Self-care||Looking after your personal care, such as hygiene, grooming, eating, and your health care needs.|
|Self-management||Organising your own life, planning and deciding, and taking responsibility for your obligations.|
Difference Between “Reduced” and “Substantially Reduced” Functional Capacity
Functional capacity is your ability to carry out activities in the six areas above.
Many people with mental health issues will have reduced functional capacity sometimes or even all the time. Reduced functional capacity means you have difficulty carrying out those tasks.
Substantially reduced functional capacity means you’re unable to take part in an activity or complete a task.
To qualify as a psychosocial disability, you must have substantially reduced functional capacity and this level of ability is likely to last your lifetime.
Knowing What Recovery Means and How to Work Toward It
Recovery for a psychosocial disability means achieving your optimal state in body, mind, heart, and spirit as you lead a full and contributing life.
- Body: being active, eating well, taking care of your cleanliness and appearance
- Mind: able to learn new things, to have stimulation and variety
- Heart: building strong relationships that help you thrive
- Soul: having a meaning, purpose, goals, priorities, and values that are greater than yourself
Optimal is simply another word for your best. The thing about doing your best is that it’s unique to you and your best varies from moment to moment.
For example, some days you will do your best if you can manage a shower. If that’s all you get done in a day, then you’ve done your best. Other days, you may go out and see friends, visit a library, or go to church — as well as having your shower.
Working Towards Recovery
Follow these three steps to a fulfilling life with a psychosocial disability.
Firstly, have the right mindset. Remember that your best changes from moment to moment. Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t do something today that you could do yesterday. Speak kindly to yourself.
Secondly, get the right support. If you have a psychosocial disability, it means you’re unable to do certain things without the right supports. Find the right support services that can meet your needs.
Thirdly, where possible, work collaboratively towards increasing your independence. You may not do things completely on your own, but perhaps you can help your support worker in small ways. For example, maybe you need them to wash the dishes, but you can collect the dirty dishes into a stack.
Psychosocial Recovery Coaches: A New Initiative from the NDIS
If you face complex challenges in your daily living, you may include a psychosocial recovery coach in your NDIS plan. Recovery coaches support NDIS participants in taking control of their life and to better manage the challenges of day-to-day living.
Related reading: NDIS 101: How to Get the Most Out of Support Coordination
The important thing to remember is that recovery is different for everyone and that all you have to do is your best.
Accessing the NDIS for a Psychosocial Disability: How to Get the National Disability Insurance Agency to say YES to Your Claim
In Australia, 600,000 people live with a severe and persistent mental illness. Of these people, 290,000 require support from time to time. And 64,000 people who have a mental illness also have a related psychosocial disability and are eligible for the NDIS.
NDIS Eligibility Criteria for People Living with a Mental Illness
You must fulfill the NDIS eligibility criteria. Everyone who gets on the NDIS must:
- be an Australian citizen AND
- be under 65 when they apply for the NDIS AND
- live in an area where the NDIS is available.
And for mental health conditions specifically, you must meet these five:
- have an impairment resulting from a mental health condition AND
- the impairment is likely to last your lifetime AND
- the impairment results in substantially reduced functional capacity AND
- the impairment affects your capacity for economic and social participation AND
- you’re likely to require NDIS support for your lifetime.
How to Apply for the NDIS with a Mental Health Condition
The principle that should guide you as you prepare your application is collecting a preponderance of proof. This phrase from American lawyer Gerry Spence means you provide an overwhelming amount of evidence to support your application.
Collect evidence such as letters of support from people involved in your care, such as family, friends, and mental health workers. Provide evidence such as assessment forms you’ve used for other services the Australian Government provides such as your application for the Disability Support Pension.
You’ll also need to show how your disability affects you as you go about your everyday activities and why you’re unable to do certain activities without access to NDIS supports.
Get a mental health professional to carry out a functional assessment using one of these:
- Life Skills Profile (LSP-16) which is preferred by the NDIA
- World Health Organization Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0 (WHODAS 2.0).
The best chance of getting your application approved is to make it as easy as possible for the NDIA to say yes to your claim by giving them more evidence than they need.
Conclusion: The NDIS is NOT for Everyone with a Mental Health Condition
Most people with mental health conditions won’t be able to access the NDIS. While any mental illness is challenging to live with, few people have a psychosocial disability.
If your mental health condition prevents you from functioning without support on a day-to-day basis, and this is likely to last your lifetime, you’re probably eligible for the NDIS.
For everyone else, you can access the broader mental health sector, such as support groups in your local community and mainstream or government services and community mental health services.
What has been the most challenging or supportive part about getting NDIS support through the NDIS with your mental health condition? Please share in the comments.
Daniel G. Taylor is a mental health speaker. Daniel teaches people affected by mental health personal development principles so they can reach their goals and achieve their potential. He lives with bipolar disorder and has developed a lot of tools and strategies for staying well long term. He’s the author of “Staying Sane: How to Master Bipolar Disorder for Life” and a contributor to “Mastering Bipolar Disorder: An Insider’s Guide to Managing Mood Swings and Finding Balance” edited by Kerrie Eyers & Gordon Parker (Allen & Unwin, 2010).