Mental Health and the NDIS

Severe mental health conditions affect an estimated 690,000 people in Australia. It is a hard statistic to quantify, as a lot of people who have mental health issues do not like to talk about or acknowledge them.

Not all people with severe mental health issues will be able to access NDIS funding, in fact, it is predicted that only 64,000 of these people will have access to NDIS funding.

That’s less than 10%!

Therefore, to maximise your chances of being approved for an NDIS plan, it’s important that you know exactly how the NDIA views mental health, and how they assess and determine who gets funding.

Does the NDIS provide funding for people with mental health issues?

To qualify for NDIS funding, your mental health issues must have resulted in you developing a psychosocial disability.

Additionally, you must also meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Be an Australian citizen, or have a permanent or Special Category visa
  • Be under 65 years old when you apply
  • Live in an area where NDIS is available
  • Your mental health condition has caused difficulties in your everyday life
  • The difficulties you experience as a result of your mental health condition are permanent and mean you will likely always require NDIS support
  • The difficulties you experience as a result of your mental health issue have substantially reduced your ability to do everyday activities

What is a psychosocial disability?

A psychosocial disability is one that arises from a mental health issue. It can result in a person having a reduced ability to think clearly, function, or to experience full physical health.

A psychosocial disability limits a person’s ability to manage the social, emotional and practice aspects of their lives.

Many people in Australia, and worldwide, experience mental health issues, but only a few of these develop a psychosocial disability.

Mental health disorder as a permanent disability

Many people who experience mental health issues do not think that they have a disability and can be in denial that there is a problem at all. This can make it difficult for many people with mental health conditions to access and enter the scheme.

The NDIS requires that a disability be a permanent condition – which can sometimes make it even more tricky for those with mental health conditions. It is contradictory to try and advocate and convince the NDIA that your mental health disorder will be permanent, when most of the time (if not all of the time), you are hoping that you will become well and will not be affected forever.

One thing to note, however, is that to be permanent does not mean to always be the same. You may have the condition permanently, but the effects of it on your day to day life may ease and vary in intensity. It may not always feel like severe mental illness.

If your need for support is likely to be permanent and lifelong, then you may be able to qualify for NDIS funding.

What supports can the NDIS provide for someone with a mental health disorder?

NDIS supports must always be “reasonable and necessary”, and outside of those already provided by other government programs.

Examples of support services that the NDIS may fund are:

  • Support with building social relationships
  • Help with household tasks that will assist in living independently, such as cooking meals
  • Financial counselling to help build budgeting and money management skills
  • A social worker to help you with planning and decision-making

*Mental health issues and alcohol and drug use.

To further complicate things, a great number of people with mental health issues abuse alcohol and/or drugs. Determining whether a need for support is due to this substance abuse or to the underlying psychiatric condition is very difficult at times for assessors (the NDIS does not cover supports related to substance abuse).