Mental Health and the NDIS

Mental Health and the NDIS

An estimated 600,000 Australians live with severe and persistent mental illness of which approximately 64,000 will be eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Key points:

  • Mental illness that affects your ability to perform daily tasks is called psychosocial disability

  • The NDIS may be able to support you with daily living

  • Finding the right support can gel with living a fulfilling life

Psychosocial disability

If you have a mental illness that is affecting your ability to live a fulfilling life, you may be able to receive NDIS support. 

It is important to note the NDIS does not fund therapy to address symptoms of mental illness but rather funds ongoing functional support for daily living. This support could include getting to a medical appointment, assistance in finding a suitable house, searching for a job, guidance in taking medication or help to prepare meals.

Mental health illness that affects your ability to perform daily activities is known as psychosocial disability. With the right support you can live a fulfilling life. 

Some psychosocial disabilities include:

  • Anxiety

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Depression

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Schizophrenia

To be eligible for mental health support under the NDIS, you must first provide evidence of your psychosocial disability and how this impacts your life daily. 

Importance of support for psychosocial disability

According to 2015 statistics collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 94.9 percent of people living with psychosocial disability said they needed assistance or were experiencing difficulty with daily living tasks. 

The three most common areas people needed assistance with were making decisions and maintaining relationships (84.9 percent), mobility (54.8 percent) and health care (50.7 percent). Finding and accessing the right support for people with psychosocial disability is so important as poor mental health often has a flow-on effect through unemployment, homelessness and further health complications, for example not being able to look after yourself through self-care and personal hygiene.

In 2005, almost three-quarters of the 151,900 employed Australians with psychosocial disability aged between 15 and 64 years old, reported restrictions because of their disability, such as inability to work, restricted hours or restrictions in what type of work was undertaken. 

“Individuals who find it hard to do the things they enjoy such as getting out and about in their community, preparing food, going on holidays or perhaps even having a job they enjoy, can feel disconnected and isolated,” Marketing Manager, Dana Cole from Open Minds, a mental health and disability support provider says.

“By accessing support to do the things you like, you can feel supported, have someone to turn to when you have a difficult situation or even just have someone with you to break down social barriers by going to new places for the first time can really help you achieve your goals.”

Funding support from States and Territories

It is important to remember the NDIS does not fund the treatment of psychosocial disability, but rather provides support to help you perform everyday tasks and live a fulfilling life. 

Your State and Territory mental health system funds supports that are clinical in nature, such as acute care, outpatient care, continuing care in the community, rehabilitation and recovery, clinical early intervention supports related to mental health and residential care for inpatient treatment or clinical rehabilitation.

In comparison, the NDIS funds disability supports that focus on a person’s functional ability to undertake activities of daily living and participate in the community and social and economic life.

Mental health services funded by your State and Territory Government are provided through community health, hospitals and in your home.

Your General Practitioner (GP) can make a referral to specialist mental health services. If you visit a hospital you can also be referred to these services. 

For more information contact the Health Department in your State or Territory:

South Australia - SA Health (08) 8226 6000

Victoria - Department of Health and Human Services 1300 650 172

New South Wales - NSW Health (02) 9391 9000

Tasmania - Department of Health and Human Services 1800 332 388

Western Australia - Department of Health (08) 9222 4222

Queensland - Queensland Government 1300 642 255

Northern Territory - Northern Territory Government 1800 682 288

Am I eligible for the NDIS?

If you live with psychosocial disability and need assistance to carry out everyday tasks involving communication, social interaction, learning, mobility, self-care and self-management, you may be eligible for an NDIS plan.

To be deemed eligible you must experience difficulties in doing at least one of the below areas, without support or with reduced functional capacity. 

  • Communication - being understood in spoken, written, or sign language, understanding others and the ability to express your needs. 

  • Social interaction - making and keeping friends, interacting with the community, behaving within limits accepted by others and the ability to cope with feelings and emotions in a social context. 

  • Learning - understanding and remembering information, learning new things, practising and using new skills. 

  • Mobility - your ability to move around the home and community to undertake ordinary activities of daily living requiring the use of limbs. 

  • Self-care - personal care, hygiene, grooming, feeding yourself and the ability to care for your own health care needs. 

  • Self-management - the cognitive capacity to organise one's life, to plan and make decisions, and to take responsibility for yourself, completing daily tasks, making decisions, problem-solving and managing your finances.

You may receive support through the NDIS in these areas to help you perform these tasks. Some examples of how NDIS can help include:

  • Funding for therapies such as seeing a psychologist, counsellor, psychiatrist and/or social worker

  • Transport to get to medical appointments and support groups

  • Assistance in learning how to travel independently on public or private transport 

  • Support in setting personal and professional goals, budgeting and paying bills etc

  • Self-care assistance, such as hygiene, showering and grooming

  • Support to help you get out in your community to build friendships

  • Assistance with shopping, meal preparation and cooking

  • Support with cleaning around your house or garden

  • Help to access Centrelink

  • Assistance in finding the right accommodation for you (including organising support in the home if required)

  • Support coordination and assistance with the NDIS. 

Compiling the evidence

Your first port-of-call to receiving any type of mental health support is through your GP. They can provide proof and evidence that these services are needed for you to live as independent a life as possible. They do this through detailed medical records and referrals to specialist supports.

To get support under the NDIS if you are eligible, you have to articulate your areas of difficulty into measurable goals that can be met with assistance from the Scheme. For example, if you have crippling anxiety that prevents you from leaving the house, your NDIS goal could be “I would like to access my community confidently” or “I’d like to step out of my comfort zone and meet new people.”

Enlisting the help of a Local Area Coordinator (LAC) is a good way to help you understand if you are eligible for the NDIS and how the Scheme can help you, as well as the process when applying and what happens once you receive an NDIS plan. 

You can find the organisations partnered with your State or Territory to deliver LAC services here. 

And their contact details by entering your location on the NDIS website

LACs have experience in meeting with people with disability, identifying their goals, navigating the application process and handling the paperwork, which helps make the process easier and less stressful. 

You will need to obtain detailed documents explaining your formal diagnosis of mental health from your GP or mental health specialist. 

Your LAC can help you compile this evidence, which is a crucial step when it comes to applying for the NDIS. Some tips for accessing psychosocial support through the NDIS: 

  • People with psychosocial disability have ‘good days’ and ‘bad days’. To ensure you’re not just covering the support you need on a ‘good day’, keep a diary and write down the activities you had/have trouble with each day. This will help your LAC understand your support needs as well when you sit down with them during your planning meeting. 

  • Ask your doctor or specialist to print you off notes at each appointment and keep these in an ordered folder with other relevant medical history.

  • If you choose to create a written statement for the NDIA’s consideration, ask your family and friends to provide a few comments from an outsider perspective on your functional ability and what supports they believe will improve your quality of life.

What support have you used? Tell us in the comment section below. 

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