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Monday, 27 June 2011

Mental health and the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)

Many people think a physical or sensory impairment is a disability and a mental impairment is not. But if you have a mental health problem you may be covered by the Disability Discrimination Act.

The Disability Discrimination Act

If your mental illness affects your ability to carry out day-to-day activities then you are likely to be covered by the Disability Discrimination Act.

The Act also covers people who have had a disability in the past. The Act does not provide a list of impairments that are covered, but instead considers the effects of an impairment on a person.

For example, someone with a mild form of depression with only minor effects may not be covered. But someone with severe depression with substantial effects on their daily life is likely to be considered as disabled under the Act.

Many people with a mental health condition do not think of themselves as 'disabled' - but they may have rights supported by the Disability Discrimination Act.

There are many different types of mental health conditions which can lead to a disability, including:

  • dementia
  • depression
  • bipolar disorder
  • obsessive compulsive disorder
  • schizophrenia
  • self-harm

This is not a complete list and there are varying degrees of severity. The charity Mind has factsheets on a range of mental health conditions in their 'Understanding' series.

What does the Disability Discrimination Act mean?

The Disability Discrimination Act aims to end discrimination against disabled people in a range of circumstances. These include employment, education and the provision of goods and services.

For instance, if a student with a personality disorder was refused entry to college because their disability may make them disruptive. This might amount to unlawful disability discrimination, unless it can be justified.

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