Is depression a disability?

DEPRESSION can zap a person of energy, make them struggle to get out of bed and cause aches, pain and sleep problems. 

It can feel disabling – but is it defined as such?

In some cases, yes.

Under the Equality Act of 2010, “disability” expands beyond what a typical person understands of the term.

The Government says “a mental health condition is considered a disability if it has a long-term effect on a person's normal day-to-day activity”.

Long term is considered to be lasting 12 months, or likely to last 12 months.

For mental health conditions like bipolar, this may mean three episodes within one year.

“Normal activity” is considered things like using a computer, working set hours, interacting with people, using public transport, washing or driving.

Even if someone is on medication, the Equality Act says you have to ignore treatment in deciding whether a mental health problem has a substantial adverse effect on the way they live their life.

Many people with depression will be familiar with how depression can cause an inability to do normal things in many areas of life, whether that be work, school, relationships or socialising.

To be considered a disability, depression must have a “substantial adverse effect” on daily life. 

It doesn’t mean it stops you from doing something entirely, but it makes it more difficult. 

The Equality Act 2010 says a person mustn’t be discriminated against because of a disability – in this case, depression.

They are protected at work, when renting a property or as a consumer, for example. 

At work, an employer can’t put pressure on someone to quit their job if they are struggling with their depression.

Managers should make adjustments to their employee’s work so that they are not disadvantaged, for example giving flexible hours.

There are a number of other rules around time off work, sick pay and redundancy, and information on support, on the Government website.

Bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and schizophrenia are examples of other mental health conditions that may be classed as a disability.

 Take this NHS test to see if you’re at risk of depression or anxiety.

How do you know if your mental health illness is a disability?

The charity Mind says you can ask yourself these three questions to find out:

  1. Do I have a mental or physical health impairment?
  2. Is it long-term (meaning lasting more than 12 months or likely to do so)?
  3. Does it have a more than minor adverse effect on my day-to-day living, if I discount my treatment or medication?

If you answered “yes” to all three questions, then your mental health problem could get the protection of the Equality Act.

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