Psychosocial disability is often misunderstood and rarely discussed, despite 1.1 million Australians experiencing it. As our attention turns to these issues during October, as we mark Mental Health Month, it’s worth digging deeper into psychosocial disability to better understand it.
So, what exactly is it? Psychosocial disability refers to the experience of people with impairments and participation restrictions that are caused by mental health conditions. Psychosocial Disability describes the barriers to inclusion a person with a mental health condition may experience, such as concentrating, memory problems, maintaining energy to complete tasks, coping with time pressure, interacting with others, being in certain environments and managing stress. Whilst not everyone who has a mental health issue will experience disability, those that do may need support to overcome barriers to social inclusion.
When a person can access support to overcome these barriers, they can live well. For instance, a person can learn and practise new skills to build up their executive functioning (like memory, emotional regulation and flexible thinking) which can hugely benefit their lives and listen the impact of their condition.
Psychosocial disability can be episodic, even if the person has a chronic mental health condition. For example, a person who has schizophrenia or bipolar disorder may have periods where they do not experience psychosocial disability. This is why their support may change over the course of their lifetime.
There is still a lot of stigma and confusion around psychosocial disability. The best was to address this is through education and awareness. Mental Health Month is a great time to share information and start conversations, shifting attitudes in our community. Explaining that psychosocial disability can be managed and improved upon will help reduce stigma in society. It may also encourage others to seek support to improve the quality of their life and reduce barriers to inclusion.