If you have a diagnosed mental illness, you may be eligible for support from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Find out more about psychosocial disabilities, their impacts, and the types of support available.

Not many people know that the NDIS provides support for people living with a psychosocial disability. But what does that even mean? In this article, we’re covering everything you need to know about psychosocial disability and the types of support you can access under the NDIS.

What is a psychosocial disability?

In the context of the NDIS, the term ‘psychosocial disability’ refers to a mental illness that severely impacts your ability to live your life. If your mental illness affects you in the following ways, you may be living with a psychosocial disability:

  • You find it hard to concentrate
  • You struggle to regulate emotions and responses to stress
  • You don’t have the stamina to complete tasks
  • You cannot motivate yourself
  • Your capacity to understand and relate to others has decreased
  • You feel unsafe or uncomfortable in certain places

When you consider the potential impacts of the above, the importance of supporting Australians living with a psychosocial disability becomes clear. Without support, people may be at risk of homelessness, unemployment, poverty, isolation, and other physical and mental health conditions.

The impact of a psychosocial disability

As of 2018, 4.4 million Australians were living with a disability. Of these, 1.13 million reported having a psychosocial disability – at the time, that was 4.6% of the Australian population.

Importantly, 38.8% of Australians with a psychosocial disability reported experiencing a profound limitation in some aspect of their life. That’s compared with only 10.5% of people with a non-psychosocial disability.

Here’s a breakdown of the limitations faced by Australians living with a psychosocial disability, sorted from most to least common:

  1. Cognitive and emotional tasks – 85.5% (of people)
  2. Mobility – 54.9%
  3. Health care – 51.5%
  4. Self-care – 40.7%
  5. Property maintenance – 40.0%
  6. Private transport – 39.1%
  7. Household chores – 31.1%
  8. Reading or writing – 26.0%
  9. Meal preparation – 22.8%
  10. Oral communication – 21.3%

Note: Data sourced from Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Examples of mental illnesses that can lead to a psychosocial disability

The NDIS may provide support to people living with one or more of the following:

  • Mood disorders, such as:
    • Dysthymia (also known as persistent depressive disorder)
    • Major depression (also known as clinical depression)
    • Bipolar I
    • Bipolar II
  • Anxiety disorders, for example:
    • Post traumatic stress disorder
    • Agoraphobia
    • Social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia)
    • Generalised anxiety disorder
    • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Schizoid disorders, for example:
    • Schizophrenia
    • Schizoaffective disorder

It’s important to note that the NDIS does not consider all mental illnesses to be psychosocial disabilities. When applying for NDIS support, you need to demonstrate the limitations created by your condition. We’ll talk about this in more detail below.

Applying for the NDIS with a psychosocial disability

After checking that you are eligible for the NDIS, the first step when applying is to speak with your GP. They can support your application by providing documentation such as medical records and notes from your appointments. If further assessment or evidence is required, your GP may refer you to other allied health professionals (such as a psychologist or an occupational therapist).

You do not have to have a formal diagnosis to access the NDIS for psychosocial disability – you just need to demonstrate the impacts of your condition. Specifically, the NDIS want evidence that your ability to carry out everyday tasks is significantly affected in one of the following areas:

  • Self-management – making decisions, organising your life, planning and completing tasks, or managing your finances.
  • Self-care – hygiene and grooming, eating and drinking, or fulfilling your health care needs.
  • Social interaction – forming or maintaining relationships, behavioural or emotional regulation, or accessing the community.
  • Learning – understanding and remembering new things, or practising new skills.
  • Mobility – getting around or completing physical tasks in your home or community.
  • Communication – using or understanding written, spoken, or sign language.

When applying for the NDIS with a psychosocial disability, you need to complete an Evidence of Psychosocial Disability form. This can be filled out by an allied health professional or support worker. Applicants also need to submit an Access Request Form. You can also make a Verbal Access Request through the National Disability Insurance Agency (the agency responsible for running the NDIS) by calling 1800 800 110.

If you are unsure about your eligibility for the NDIS, you could make an appointment with a Local Area Coordinator to discuss your situation. They can also help you complete the application process. Local Area Coordinators understand that a psychosocial disability can affect a person’s capacity to communicate and complete tasks, so their job is to make the process as simple and stress-free as possible!

The making of an NDIS plan for psychosocial disability

When building an NDIS plan, you are supported to set goals for yourself; these goals determine the supports and funding you’ll receive. For example, if your psychosocial disability makes it hard for you to clean your home, you’d likely have a goal within your NDIS plan that says something like this: I want support to maintain a clean home environment. The NDIS plan will then include funding to cover the costs of a regular cleaner. There is no limit on the number of goals you can have in your plan.

The NDIS want to help you live as independently as possible, it’s not about paying for treatment of the psychosocial disability. However, it’s important to note that the supports funded through your plan can minimise life’s stressors and help you focus on recovery.

The supports that NDIS will fund for someone living with a psychosocial disability may include:

  • Plan management – support to manage your NDIS plan and pay invoices from service providers.
  • Support coordination – support to source and organise supports.
  • Psychosocial recovery coaching – support to source and organise supports as well as regular informal mental health support.
  • Support work – support with daily tasks (chores, errands, shopping, and meal-preparation), self-care (feeding, hygiene, dressing, and medication administration), attending appointments, and accessing the community.
  • Therapeutic supports – psychology, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and behaviour support.
  • Transport – support to get around for errands and appointments.
  • Supported Independent Living – support to access accommodation where you receive supports based on your needs.
  • Assistive technology – support to purchase items and consumables directly related to your disability.

When working with an LAC to develop your plan, it’s a good idea to ask trusted friends or family members about the supports they think you might need. You could also keep a log or diary of tasks that you have difficulty with and provide this to your LAC. These suggestions, along with documentation from your doctor or other treating specialists, can help ensure your NDIS plan is tailored to your unique needs.

Mainstream and crisis supports for mental illness and psychosocial disability

The NDIS is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and you will likely still need to access other supports if you are living with a mental illness that has become a psychosocial disability.

South Australians can contact SA Health to learn more about the various supports available, such as outpatient care, inpatient care, early intervention supports, and clinical rehabilitation.

Additionally, many organisations run helplines that can support you in times of crisis, such as:

  • Lifeline Australia – call 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au to access an online chat.
  • Beyond Blue – call 1300 224 636 or visit beyondblue.org.au to access an online chat.
  • Suicide Call Back Service – call 1300 659 467 or visit suicidecallbackservice.org.au to access online counselling.
  • Lived Experience Telephone Support Service (LETSS) – call 1800 013 755 or visit letss.org.au to access an online chat (note: LETSS operates from 5pm-11:30pm only).

Other more specialised helplines and crisis services can be found on the Australian Government’s Health Direct website.

Important: If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of harm call triple zero (000).

That’s a wrap

It’s great to see that the NDIS recognises the impacts of mental illnesses. It’s an important step towards acknowledging the challenges that many Australians face, and the support that accompanies this recognition is invaluable to many of our customers. If you want to find out more about the NDIS and its approach to mental health, you can visit their website.