Mental health support in disability care

Adults with disability are sometimes affected by mental health challenges and illnesses as well. People receiving supports through the NDIS can access mental health support to reduce emotional distress, ill health and improve their overall wellbeing. The article outlines the importance of easy access to mental health support in disability care, and explains the types of services and supports that are available.

What is a mental health condition?

Metal health conditions are common in Australia. A 2022 study found that almost half (43%) of the adult population has experienced a mental disorder at some point in their life. These conditions health issue can include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, among others.

Some people’s experiences of mental health issues are short term. Others are longer term or permanent. Some people are able to make a recovery from mental illness through:

  • medication

  • therapy treatment at local health services

  • peer and shared group emotional support sessions

Disability and mental health

Not everyone with a disability will experience poor mental health. However, people with disability face challenges that may increase their chance of depression or anxiety. People with disability can have complex medical and social needs, and may face difficulties when seeking access to the care they require. They are also more likely to experience disadvantage and social isolation.

Young people with disability may be at particular risk of poor mental health, although mental health conditions can affect a person of any age. With the right help, adults and young people can make a recovery from some types of mental illness.

What is the National Disability Insurance Scheme?

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a social services initiative of the Australian Government. Within the NDIS, state and territory governments work together to deliver a program of funding and care for people living with disability.

The program is overseen by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). The NDIS provides support for people with intellectual disability, psychosocial disability and physical disability, including rare disabilities and neurological conditions.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme operates right around Australia. Participants receive funding to be able to access the care and supports they need to live their lives and achieve their goals.

NDIS eligibility

To be eligible for the NDIS, you must be over nine years of age and have a disability. You must provide evidence of one or more intellectual, cognitive, neurological, sensory or physical impairments, or an impairment due to a mental health condition. If you have more than one disability, and also experience mental health issues, the NDIS will consider your situation. It is important you explain how each of your disabilities impact you everyday life to your eligibility assessor.

Psychosocial disabilities in the NDIS

Psychosocial disability is a term used by the National Disability Insurance Agency to describe situations where people have disability and other psychological conditions. Psychosocial disabilities are different from mental illness. A mental illness may be short term, while a psychosocial disability is usually severe and ongoing. People with a disability as a result of their mental health condition may qualify for the NDIS. People with a psychosocial disability often think, feel or interact with others in a way that can create a barrier to their participation in community life.

Navigating the NDIS with a psychosocial disability

A national study by the National Mental Health Commission called the ‘2016 National Report on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention’ (2017) found an important link between the NDIS and supporting the mental health of people in Australia.

The study found several challenges and concerns for people with psychosocial disability, including:

  • understanding their NDIS eligibility

  • which mental health programs should be supported in the NDIS

  • the quality and pricing of psychosocial supports

  • emerging gaps in mental health services

  • a lack of assistance and services for families of people with mental illness and disability

  • availability of early intervention mental health services

Resources for people with psychosocial disability

One great online resource is, an informative website that has been co-designed by people living with mental health conditions including psychosocial disability. The website has been created in part by people who have experience as a participant of the NDIS.

The website outlines six key steps to accessing the NDIS for people intellectual disability or other types of disabilities. The six sections of the website are:

  • What is psychosocial disability?

  • Understand the NDIS

  • Check if you are eligible for the NDIS

  • Apply for NDIS support

  • Reimagine your life

  • Plan with the NDIS

The website also has collated resources for:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

  • multicultural communities

  • rural and remote communities

  • family and carers

Mental health support for people with intellectual disability

Adults with intellectual disability may experience particular challenges in accessing the right types of health care.

In New South Wales, the Statewide Intellectual Disability Mental Health Outreach Service (SIDMHOS) supports adults with intellectual or developmental disability to access appropriate health care. It is funded by NSW Health.

How social and community participation can benefit mental illness

Having strong community bonds and networks are important. Social isolation can contribute to a person’s poor wellbeing. There are many ways that NDIS participants can benefit from social participation, including:

  • access to educational opportunities

  • opportunities to volunteer at a workplace or even gain employment

  • the chance to participate in other activities, clubs and hobbies they enjoy

  • opportunities to make new friends with shared interests

Nursed Care for holistic service provision

Nursed Care is an accredited and experiences disability support organisation. We work with NDIS participants to help them identify and achieve their goals in life.

Nursed Care provide assistance with many of the tasks of daily life, including:

We are well connected to other agencies and service providers. Nursed Care can help get you access to and connect you to community support services providing employment, volunteering and training opportunities.

Meet the Nursed Care team

Our workforce is experienced in supporting older adults and NDIS participants with all sorts of intellectual, physical and psychosocial disabilities. We will support you in making decisions about the types of services you would like to receive. Our staff understand how to engage and empower clients with multiple and complex disabilities.

We are experienced in navigating the NDIS, and even offer service coordination and planning support. Take the stress out of trying to manage your NDIS funding. Contact us for further information!

Related questions

Carers and the families of people with psychosocial disability play an important part in providing supports to their loved ones. Carers often experience fatigue, emotional strain and burnout when caring for people with complex mental health conditions and disability.

Respite and short term stays can be funded through the NDIS and provide an important break for carers and family members.

In Australia, Centrelink offers support for carers through:

  • Carer Payment – an income support payment for people who provide constant care to someone

  • Carer Supplement – an extra yearly payment some carers can access

  • Carer Adjustment Payment – a one-off payment for carers of children under seven with severe illness or significant disability

The Carer Gateway website also provides resources, information and advice.

In the first instance, many people speak to their doctor (GP) for initial advice and referral. Your GP can help you address mental health concerns by:

  • carrying out an assessment to reach a diagnosis of your mental health issue

  • developing a mental health treatment plan within the recovery framework

  • giving you a prescription for medicines to treat depression or anxiety

Following a mental health or psychosocial disability diagnosis, your GP may refer you to a variety of professionals, including:

  • psychiatrists

  • clinical psychologists

  • neuropsychologists

  • clinical coordinators

Also be referred to a counsellor, social worker or community support worker.

Once you have a mental health treatment plan in place place, you can claim for the costs of your mental health appointments from the Australian Government through Medicare. You can claim up to ten individual and ten group sessions with a mental health professional each calendar year.

To start with, your doctor or psychiatrist will refer you for up to six sessions at a particular time. Further support services may be available if you need more help. Each health and mental health professional can decide what fees they will charges, so you may need to pay the difference in some cases.

Within the NDIS, social and community participations services can be funded. These are the services that help you connect with and be involved in community or working life. This means that the NDIS covers the cost of the supports a person needs to manage their disability and achieve overall wellbeing.

Need qualified care?

At Nursed, we offer a full range of care and disability support services, assisting you to live the life you want to live. Contact us today.

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