Should mental illness be considered a permanent disability?

Question of the day: should mental illness be considered a permanent disability?

My answer: it depends…

As someone who is a self-proclaimed mental health advocate, I am prone to lean towards the claim that mental illness is absolutely a permanent disability; however, just as not all physical illnesses are permanent, not all mental illnesses are either.

Similar to physical illness, mental illness comes in varying degrees of severity. Some people who suffer from depression are able to carry on with their daily lives and still function while others are so debilitated by their illness that they cannot even get out of bed in the morning. Some people who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder are able to recover and move on from the trauma while others continue to suffer day after day despite their ongoing treatment.

For those who are able to recover from their illnesses, I would argue that their mental illness is not a permanent disability. However, individuals who have a persistent illness for an extended period of time without extended periods of recovery/no symptoms should be recognized as having a mental illness.

Emotional struggles can be just as debilitating as physical illness and I think it is important for people to recognize this. Anyone who has ever experienced the grief of losing someone who is close to them should be able to empathize with individuals who experience mental illness. This is not to say that mental illness is the same as grief, rather I simply wish to demonstrate that emotional pain can be (and often is) an extremely debilitating problem to live with.

This topic is something that is extremely relevant to my own life right now because my therapist is currently trying to register my illnesses as a permanent disability with my university. Unfortunately, the accessibility services office at my school (and likely other schools) is focused on physical disabilities, not mental disabilities. As a result, it is proving to be quite difficult to get the assistance that I need. Furthermore, in a university with thousands of students, there are only two people who work in the mental health services of the university. This is also problematic because it means that there are huge wait times to meet with a case-manager in order to discuss potential assistance.

Needless to say, I am pretty disappointed in the services of an institution that prides itself on supporting it’s students. The system is definitely putting students with mental illnesses at a disadvantage.

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