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If you feel distressed or you’re at risk and need to speak to a mental health professional, please call your local mental health line or if in Australia visit here for resources and contacts.

Psychosocial Disability & Mental Health

Disability, Mental Health, NDIS

Psychosocial disability is a term used to describe a disability that may arise from a mental health issue


Not everyone who has a mental health condition will have a psychosocial disability, but for people who do, it can be severe, long standing and impact on  recovery. People with a disability as a result of their mental health condition may qualify for the NDIS.


Navigating the NDIS can be really tricky, this is why having access to a specialist support coordinator or recovery coach (with lived and/or mental health experience) or both is highly beneficial and recommended to help you. Understanding the NDIS language and terminology can be key.


A good support coordinator or recovery coach will understand the NDIA, with the knowledge and experience to be able to help you effectively.


Differentiating between mental health conditions and psychosocial disabilities


‘Mental health disorders’ can be described as a clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotional regulation, or behaviour.  It is usually associated with distress or impairment in important areas of functioning. There are nearly 300 disorders listed in the DSM-5 and only a qualified clinician such as a psychologist can diagnose this.

‘Mental health conditions’ is a broader term covering mental disorders, and (other) mental states associated with significant distress, impairment in functioning, or risk of self-harm. Everyone experiences anxiety at some point, but people are affected by it differently. People who experience anxiety or depressive states occasionally and are functioning well, may not qualify for NDIS.

‘Psychosocial disability’ is an internationally recognised term under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and is used to describe what is often the outcome for a person with a mental health condition attempting to interact with a social environment that presents barriers to their equality with others.


A psychosocial disability may also describe the experience of people with impairments and participation restrictions related to mental health issues such as the loss of or reduced abilities to function, think clearly, experience full physical health and manage the social and emotional aspects of their lives.
As you can see there is a link and cross over between the two. Most people who have a psychosocial disability, have a mental health condition but they might not so it is important to distinguish the two and understand how this creates barriers in life and/or impacts in everyday functioning.

What the NDIA look for in applications and reviews


When it comes to the NDIS, they are mostly concerned with how the participant’s condition impacts their function in everyday life. This is important to understand, as the NDIA will be looking for reports to substantiate and support the participants application.
Two people with exactly the same circumstances and conditions may apply but one may be accepted simply due to what has been submitted and the language/terminology used.
The NDIS may look out for particular terminology to describe  a person’s limited functioning such as:


Impairment: any loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function. Impairment is the loss or damage to mental function resulting from the condition or diagnosis of symptoms.


Likely permanence of impairment: a permanent impairment is an impairment for which there is no known, available or appropriate evidence-based treatment or intervention that may remedy the impairment. While an individual’s mental health condition may be episodic, the impairment/s as a result of the mental health condition may still be considered permanent.


Substantially-reduced functional capacity: an inability to effectively participate in or complete a task (much more than a person experiencing difficulty with task completion). This is considered in an age-appropriate context. The reduction must be within one or more of the six legislative (NDIS Act 2013, S24(1)) domains; social interaction, communication, learning, mobility, self-care, and/or self-management. For a reduction to be considered substantial within a domain there must be an inability to effectively function within the whole or majority of the domain, not just a singular activity.


Reasonable and necessary: ‘reasonable’ means something fair and ‘necessary’ means something you must have. The NDIS funds reasonable and necessary supports relating to a person’s disability to help them achieve their goals and meet their needs. For more information please see reasonable and necessary factsheet.


To really help you on this journey, it is recommended to seek advice from a specialist support coordinator (SC) and/or recovery coach (RC) with the relevant experience and/or qualifications. Some participants may choose to have both a SC as well as a RC who work collaboratively together.


Source:…/how…/mental-health-and-ndis Glossary PDF (updated 18/5/22)
WCM Team

WCM Team


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