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When does mental health become a disability?

A disability is defined by the dictionary as any condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities. We will all have our own perceptions of exactly what a disability is, but it is widely accepted that those in wheelchairs or with guide dogs may be classed as disabled.

These disabilities are visible and have become a normal part of our society, but invisible disabilities exist too. These hidden disabilities could take many forms, but, some of the least recognised are disabilities that occur from poor mental health such as chronic depression or severe anxiety.

We have all heard of mental health before. In fact, everyone will experience days when their mental health may be bad, maybe you have just lost a job or even a loved one. For many people, bad mental health will come and go but, this isn’t the case for everyone. Some people may suffer from mental health conditions that turn into disabilities. These conditions (also sometimes called illnesses) may not be visible in the same way as other disabilities but can still have a huge impact on a person’s life. People who do suffer from mental health disabilities may be entitled to extra support or help that could improve their quality of life, so it is helpful to know when a mental health condition becomes a disability.

When does mental health become a disability?

The government has recently released criteria for determining when a mental health condition may become a disability. This criteria can be applied to any mental illness and may help sufferers to understand if they are eligible for disability status. Learn more here.

Long-term conditions

Some mental health conditions may be diagnosed as chronic, just like many physical disabilities. The biggest sign of a mental health disability is experiencing symptoms for a long period of time. Long term is defined on the government website as 12 months or longer so, chronic diagnoses may fall into this category. If a person consistently struggles with their mental health condition for this length of time or longer, it may be a sign of disability. Early intervention is the best way to stop a mental health condition from becoming a long term problem – the earlier you seek help the more chance you have of recovery.

Mental health conditions often affect people silently – you may know someone who has a mental health disability but you may not even notice it. Mental health plays a huge role in a person’s quality of life – many conditions leave an individual unable to feel any form of positive mood and may present them with daily challenges that are tough to carry out. Living with a mental health condition often requires just as much effort and perseverance as living with a physical illness does, which is why long-term mental health conditions can be classed as a disability.

When symptoms cause adverse effects

The word adverse is used to describe conditions that prevent development, success or are extremely harmful to a person’s well being. Mental health conditions will often prevent a person from being able to achieve success or develop in their life. This can be for a number of reasons:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Extreme anxiety about certain situations or objects
  • Low self-esteem/self-worth
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Fatigue due to medication

This list only covers a few of the reasons why mental health conditions can present adverse effects on sufferers. Living with these adverse effects can be extremely tiring for sufferers which will interrupt their ability to lead a normal, healthy life. Because of this, sufferers may need extra care and support to help them to overcome the difficulties that their mental health disability may bring.

When the symptoms affect normal day-to-day activities

A mental health condition can be classed as a disability if it interrupts normal day-to-day activities. Just like becoming blind may stop a person from seeing, suffering from a mental health condition may stop a person from carrying out regular tasks or experience life in the same way as other people. This can apply to any mental health condition – even unnoticeable symptoms can have a huge impact on a person’s daily life. For example, someone with depression may struggle to work at their job due to the side effects of medication or the constant negative thoughts that they experience in their mind.

Many people with mental health conditions don’t realise that it is okay for everyday activities to seem a lot harder. The toll that mental illness takes on an individual is huge and the mind is a very important part of everyday functioning. No one would expect a person with a broken leg to run a marathon and so it is unfair to expect someone suffering from poor mental health to carry on as normal.

Always check with a professional

The best way to know when a mental health condition may class as a disability is to check with a qualified professional.

It can sometimes be easy to self-diagnose and jump to conclusions but this doesn’t help anyone! It’s important that you get the correct diagnosis and advice so that the best treatment can be put into place and decisions taken with your best interests in mind.

For help, speak
to one of our team
call 0333 331 3770

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