By Gill Callister – CEO Mind Australia
As mental health week comes around again, I find myself reflecting on how much more awareness of mental health there is in the community and how far we’ve come. It appears that the dial is shifting about common mental health disorders, but the community still doesn’t know a lot about people who experience a disability arising from mental health challenges. Largely absent from public commentary, people with psychosocial disabilities can be misunderstood and not have their voices heard.
Psychosocial disability is a term which arose as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) came into being. The term refers not to a diagnosis of mental illness but to the functional impact and barriers which may be faced by someone living with a mental health condition, such as living independently in the community.
I have seen first-hand how the NDIS has been transformative for people with psychosocial disability. Clara, an NDIS participant told us that; “the NDIS has given me courage and taught me to try a lot of new things”. It provides an opportunity for people to access psychosocial support – like the kind provided by Mind Australia – which helps them rebuild and maintain connections, manage daily tasks, engage with education and employment, and participate fully in the community.
Julian told us about how his NDIS supports helped him in achieving his goals, which included things like “going to the movies, playing golf and powerlifting so I can build up my confidence and fitness”.
But not everyone’s experience with the NDIS is positive. For some people, and especially those with psychosocial disability, accessing the NDIS is challenging.
There has always been a tension between the fluctuating nature of psychosocial disabilities and the Scheme’s focus on permanency of disability – a focus which also doesn’t recognise the capacity for recovery. Further, people have to re-live their worst day to receive an appropriate level of support. Funding is not always commensurate with what's needed for someone to reach their goals and recover a life which is meaningful to them. And sometimes, in some places, there are very few supports to choose from, if any at all.
Mind’s Lived Experience Advisory Team, many of whom have experience participating in the NDIS, have told us that what will actually make a difference to their lives is quite simple: skilled workers who can help them navigate supports, access to peer workers with a lived experience who understand what they’re going through, and supports which help them reconnect to the community and achieve the goals they set for themselves. For this to happen, the NDIS needs to be more flexible about plans and supports, assist people to access the NDIS, and commit to lived experience led support.
The NDIS Review panel hands down its report to Government this month. We have been advocating strongly for the views of people with psychosocial disability to be heard and we will be watching closely to see what the Review delivers. People with psychosocial disability have a right to support. Not only this, but they have a right to support which enables them to participate in the community, have decent living standards, and experience economic and social security.
As James, a NDIS participant, said to us: “When the NDIS is at its best it’s bloody amazing.” So, let’s make sure it’s bloody amazing for everyone. The first step to doing this is raising awareness of psychosocial disability, and not leaving it obscured in the shadows.
To learn more about Mind Australia support services near you contact Mind Connect on 1300 286 463.
If this article raises concerns for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islanders can also call 13 YARN (13 92 76) a 24/7 national crisis support telephone service staffed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
If you would like more information, please contact us.