Whether you have a mental illness that began in adulthood, such as major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, or you have lived with a mental health condition your entire life, you may be currently unable to work. Your household may be struggling to afford basic necessities. And you may be wondering if you can seek assistance from federal disability programs.

Both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recognize mental illness as a disabling condition. In fact, more than one-third of SSDI recipients qualified due to a mental health condition. While many people in the Philadelphia area are able to control their symptoms and support themselves financially, for many others, this is impossible. If you or a loved one are in this position, SSDI or SSI benefits may help you make ends meet.

Recognized mental conditions

The Social Security Administration, which administers both programs, groups mental conditions into eight categories:

  1. Autistic disorders
  2. Developmental disorders
  3. Childhood and adolescent disorders not elsewhere classified
  4. Intellectual disability
  5. Mood disorders
  6. Organic mental disorders
  7. Schizophrenic and other psychotic disorders
  8. Other

These categories contain a wide range of illnesses and conditions, such as depression, anxiety, autism, Down syndrome, and bipolar disorder.

Though people with a mental illness or condition make up a significant portion of the total recipients of SSDI and SSI, qualifying can be difficult. Unlike with many physical injuries like paralysis or amputation, it can be harder to show that you are currently unable to work and do not expect the situation to change for at least the next year.

What to do if your application is denied

As with SSDI and SSI applications based on other disabling conditions, most people seeking to qualify based on a mental illness or condition are rejected initially. Fortunately, if the SSA turns down your application, you have the right to appeal. Your attorney should be someone who can help you prepare your application, and mount a persuasive appeal if you are denied.