Is Depression A Disability?

Depression is a serious mental health disorder that affects millions of people across the globe. It is a medical condition that can impact a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and can interfere with their ability to function well in their daily lives. However, many people may not understand that depression can also be considered a disability. In this article, we’ll explore the issue of depression as a disability and discuss how it can impact a person’s life.

What is a disability?

A disability is a condition that impairs a person’s ability to fully participate in their daily life. Disabilities can be physical, cognitive, sensory, or mental health-related. In Australia, the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 defines disability as:

“A disability is any condition or characteristic that prevents a person from fully participating in all aspects of society on an equal basis with others.”

This definition is intended to be broad and inclusive, and covers a wide range of disabilities including but not limited to:

  • Physical disabilities such as paralysis, amputation or chronic pain
  • Cognitive disabilities such as intellectual disability or learning disability
  • Sensory disabilities such as vision or hearing loss
  • Mental health disabilities such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia

Understanding depression

Depression is a mental health disorder that is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in usual activities. It can also cause physical symptoms such as fatigue, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and difficulty concentrating. Depression can range from mild to severe and can last for weeks, months, or even years.

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in Australia, affecting around 1 million people each year. It can occur at any age, but is most commonly diagnosed in people aged between 25 and 44 years old. While anyone can experience depression, there are certain risk factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of developing the disorder. These risk factors include:

  • Experiencing a traumatic life event
  • Experiencing chronic stress
  • Having a family history of depression
  • Having a chronic illness or disability
  • Experiencing discrimination or social exclusion

Can depression be considered a disability?

In Australia, depression can be considered a disability if it meets the requirements of the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992. This means that if a person’s depression is severe enough to impact their ability to fully participate in their daily life, they may be considered to have a disability.

Some of the areas of daily life that depression can impact include:

  • Work: Depression can make it difficult for a person to concentrate, stay motivated, or complete tasks on time. It can also cause absenteeism, which can impact a person’s job performance or career opportunities.
  • Education: Depression can impact a person’s ability to study, attend classes, or complete assignments. It can also cause a person to miss school or drop out altogether, which can impact their future opportunities.
  • Social life: Depression can make it difficult for a person to maintain social relationships or participate in social activities. It can also cause a person to feel isolated or disconnected from others.
  • Self-care: Depression can impact a person’s ability to take care of themselves, including their personal hygiene, nutrition, and exercise habits. This can lead to physical health problems and further exacerbate their depression.

If a person with depression is considered to have a disability, they may be eligible for disability support services or accommodations to help them manage their symptoms and participate fully in their daily life. These accommodations may include:

  • Flexible work or study arrangements
  • Assistive technology or equipment
  • Access to mental health counseling or therapy
  • Social support services
  • Financial support or benefits

Challenges facing people with depression as a disability

Despite recognition of depression as a disability and the availability of support services, there are still significant challenges facing people with depression. These challenges can include:

  • Stigma and discrimination: Mental health stigma and discrimination can make it difficult for people with depression to access support services and participate fully in their daily lives. This can lead to feelings of additional stress and social exclusion.
  • Access to support services: Despite the availability of support services, many people with depression may find it difficult to access them due to financial, logistical, or geographic barriers. This can limit their ability to manage their symptoms and participate fully in their daily lives.
  • Employment discrimination: Some employers may discriminate against people with a history of depression, leading to reduced job opportunities or discrimination in the workplace. This can lead to decreased self-esteem and further exacerbate their depression.
  • Co-occurring health conditions: Many people with depression may also have co-occurring physical health conditions. This can make it difficult to manage their symptoms and may require additional support services or accommodations.

Conclusion

Depression is a serious mental health disorder that can significantly impact a person’s ability to fully participate in their daily life. While depression can be considered a disability, many people may not understand the true impact of the disorder on a person’s life. By recognizing depression as a disability and providing appropriate support services and accommodations, we can help people with depression to manage their symptoms and participate fully in their daily lives.

FAQs

FAQ 1: Is depression considered a disability in Australia?

Yes, depression can be considered a disability in Australia under the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992. However, whether or not depression is considered a disability depends on the severity of the symptoms and how much they affect an individual’s ability to perform daily activities, including work.

FAQ 2: Can a person with depression receive disability support pension?

Yes, a person with depression may be eligible for a disability support pension in Australia if they meet certain criteria, such as having a medical condition that affects their ability to work and earn a sufficient income. Eligibility is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

FAQ 3: What other support is available for people with depression?

There are a range of different support options available for people with depression in Australia, including mental health care plans, access to psychologists and psychiatrists, and community-based support services. Additionally, many workplaces offer employee assistance programs and flexible work arrangements to help accommodate employees with mental health conditions. It is important to seek professional help if you are experiencing symptoms of depression.


References

1. Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., & Ridder, E. M. (2005). Show me the child at seven: The consequences of conduct problems in childhood for psychosocial functioning in adulthood. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines,46(8), 837-849. [Italic] Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2004.00387.x

2. Houtrow, A. J., Jones, B., Ghandour, R., & Agrawal, R. (2018). Parent-Reported Depression and Anxiety in Children with and without Disabilities. Academic pediatrics, 18(1), 29-35. [Italic] Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acap.2017.08.003

3. World Health Organization. (2017). Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders: Global Health Estimates. WHO:[Italic]Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/254610/WHO-MSD-MER-2017.2-eng.pdf?sequence=1