A disability is an impairment usually recognized by the government that impairs a persons functioning ability. There are several types of disabilities which can include serious mental illness (SMI), physical disabilities, sensory disabilities, brain injury, and neurological disabilities. A person is considered to have a disability once the illness has contributed to daily life interruption and lowers functioning ability for more than one (1) year minimum. For this article, I will be focussing on psychiatric disabilities but first I want to clarify that a mental illness is not necessarily a disability. A mental illness becomes a disability once it has met the DSM-IV-TR Multi-axis system formed by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) along with several mandatory impairments. An easy way to clarify what type of mental illness is considered a disability is the use of the acronym SMI. An SMI is a Serious Mental Illness that is recognized by the government as a disability. SMI’s also have several mandatory qualifications to be diagnosed. I have created a quick test below to help identify an SMI. *Please be aware I am not a doctor. This test has been created according to the criteria appendix that can be found here.
So you have a disability…now what?
If you are suffering from a disability you need to remember that you can still live a happy and successful life. If you took the quiz and it resulted in an SMI than you would have read my personal story with an SMI which includes the diagnoses along with my functioning lifestyle. You can still function with an SMI, it’s just a little harder. I personally go to work part-time, and attend McMaster university part-time along with running my own blog, I live alone with a service dog, and I’m the social media marketing lead at Jack.org McMaster. Sometimes this isn’t possible for people with disabilities. In fact, I’m on disability support because I don’t have the ability to work full-time. Everyone lives a different story and just because you have a disability doesn’t mean that yours is unimportant or boring. Having a good support team and/or people you can count on will help you live the best quality of life possible. I attend 4 appointments per week minimum while taking several pills multiple times a day and an injection every 2 weeks, I go to therapy and DBT group therapy, and I have accommodations at my university to help with my lack of functioning ability. This sounds like a lot of treatment and it is but it’s what helps me live my best possible life. The “worst” part of having a disability is the process of getting these supports in place.
Get a social worker!
It still amazes me that the government expects people with severe lack of functioning ability to prepare several dozen forms, bank statements, living history, hospital admissions, track their living expenses, get a history of medications, medical history, and get several doctors signatures…half the time we can’t even get out of bed. This is where a social worker comes in handy. Luckily I have had access to several social workers, treatment centres, and a family that never quit on getting me my best treatment, but I know people who suffer without the support and due to this lack of education within the system they get lost and can end up alone, in jail, on the streets, or even dead. The Ontario government has a law that a social worker should and will be provided to every person with a disability. This social worker takes care of the government issued work, however, you do have to show up at the appointments. There is always a give and take.
Do you have a Serious Mental Illness? (SMI)
This test is built to help identify if you or someone you love could possibly meet the criteria for a Serious Mental Illness (SMI).
Get the proper treatment
Treatment can be hard to cypher through especially with the vast amount of choices. Talk to your social worker and get yourself a therapist and/or mentor. This person has the knowledge of the system already embedded within them and they can get to know you and provide information and opportunities for your best treatment options. A disability that goes without treatment often gets worse and as people with disabilities, we want to thrive and break the stigma that we are “useless.”
Disability Income Support
Many people with disabilities don’t have the opportunity to work part or full-time which can put heavy financial stress on the disabled person. Many homeless people suffer from disabilities and it’s sad to see because the government and system have failed them. If given the opportunity many disabled homeless people would accept the help that they very much are entitled to. Getting disability income support it extremely tiring and can be draining. Just remember that one or two years of dealing with the government can equal to you being secure in housing, income, food, and shelter for life. It’s a pain in the ass but worth it. Click here to apply to the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).
Don’t give up…you’ll get there
It can be discouraging, disappointing, and emotionally draining to go through the process of receiving the proper treatment and the best treatment team. It took me 9 years to get where I am today and the one thing I always did was try. Living your best life is the greatest gift you can give yourself so don’t give up because you’re worth it and I promise you that life is worth the fight.