Today, 3 December 2020, marks an important celebration – International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD). This UN-observed event aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability.

The theme for this year’s event is “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World”.

There is an important conversation to be had about the issues experienced by people with disability and how we can help make our community more inclusive.

IDPwD invites people to challenge their thinking about disability, and this is particularly relevant in regards to disability and mental health.

One important issue to highlight is that of ‘invisible disability’. Irene Gallagher, CEO, BEING – Mental Health Consumers explains, “If you think about someone who breaks their arm, is in a cast – automatically their friends and family, or even colleagues may say “what happened to you?” But with invisible disabilities, potentially no one would know”.

Irene continues, “just because I have an invisible disability; because I have a mental health issue, doesn’t mean I should be excluded from that category”

According to Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Ben Gauntlett, “80% of disability is invisible. There is a need to have a disability tailored response, which acknowledges the different types of disability in the community, and the challenges that each and every one of those individuals face.”

“Every single one of the people with disability in Australia have human rights, and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect”

BEING – Mental Health Consumers frequently receives feedback from mental health consumers highlighting a lack of recognition and understanding from service providers in relation to psychosocial disability. A frequent challenge that is communicated to us is the difficult process many people living with psychosocial disabilities face when applying for NDIS funding – particularly with the requirement to provide evidence of the permanence of their disability, which doesn’t account for the often episodic nature of mental health.

So on IDPwD 2020, we invite you to consider – how can we better support people who are living with mental health issues and/or psychosocial disabilities? How do we build more recognition that mental health issues can be disabling?