Does Mental Health Count as a Disability?

Written by Calvin Bowers
Last updated Monday August 8 2022

Mental health is something that has been recognised in the disability sphere far more over the last 10 years or so. Mental health problems are now more often being given the recognition they deserve as serious and impactful. To both living and working. 

A question that many people have when they are struggling with their mental health is – does this count as a disability? 

Knowing whether your mental health condition counts as a disability or not is actually very important. When it does cross the threshold into disability, it means that you are entitled to certain types of support. It is important to access all of this support so that you are getting everything you need. Not doing so is really doing yourself a disservice. 

Particularly so when it comes to working. Knowing your rights when it comes to work is essential, as you need to be getting the support and access that you are entitled to. At Careers with Disabilities, we want to help you with that. 

So, in this blog, we are going to talk you through when mental health counts as a disability and what this means for you in the workplace. 

The Definition of Disability

The Equality Act of 2010 gives us our most up-to-date definition of disability. Under the Act, a person is disabled if:

“..if [they] have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.”

They define substantial as, “more than minor or trivial”. And they define long-term as 12 months or more. 

Progressive conditions that get worse over time are also classified as disabilities under the Equality Act. Your status as disabled may change, however, if you become well again down the line. With conditions such as cancer, MS, and HIV/AIDs, you are classified as a disabled person from the day of your diagnosis. 

When it comes to mental health, it is this simple definition that is used to determine whether your mental health condition/struggle is a disability. People often think that it will be something that is difficult and mysterious to work out, but really it is quite straightforward. 

If your mental health has a substantial impact on your ability to do normal activities and that isn’t predicted to change any time soon, then you can be classified as disabled in the U.K. The best way to go about getting this assessed is by talking to your local GP. They will be able to help you and to signpost you on to further services in your area. 

Should You Disclose Your Disability?

If you are deemed as disabled due to your mental health, your next question might be – should I disclose this? 

Especially so when it comes to the world of recruitment and work, many people wonder whether it is the right thing or not to disclose their disability. Many people worry that the disclosure will work against them and that they will be excluded from certain opportunities because of it.

This is, of course, discrimination.

You cannot be denied a job or have your position at work change because of your disability. People can’t treat you any differently because of your disability, unless it is to help and support you, and this is backed up by the Equality Act too.

You aren’t under any obligation to disclose your disability to an employer and you can’t be coerced into doing so either. So if you are worried about these more negative potentials to a disclosure, you can take comfort in the fact that you only need to make said disclosure if you feel ready and if you feel it would help. If not, there is no pressure to do so.

However, there are quite a few benefits in store if you do decide to disclose your disability. They are as follows: 

  • Increased Access to Support: When you disclose your disability to an employer, the main aim is that you will get more of the support that you need. Your employer cannot support you appropriately if they don’t know about your condition. One of the main ways that your employer can support you is via reasonable adjustments. See the next point for more on this.
  • Reasonable Adjustments: Reasonable adjustments are changes and modifications that can be made to jobs and workplaces for disabled people. Whatever reasonable adjustments you will need depends on your condition and you as a person. There are lots of different reasonable adjustments that can be made in regards to mental health. Some options include time off for counselling, remote working options, longer breaks, and changes to workload/work duties. 
  • Reducing Stigma: The more that we talk openly and honestly about mental health, the more that we can reduce the stigma surrounding the topic. Disclosing your disability in work may help others do the same. It may also show others that there doesn’t need to be any shame around talking about mental health. It is ok to need help and it is ok to ask for it. 
  • Better Relationships with Others: When we are honest about ourselves, it helps our relationships with others. You might think that disclosing your difficulties with mental health will do the opposite in the workplace, but this isn’t the case. Honest disclosures help to bring people together. 

What Next?

If you are considering whether your mental health condition is a disability or not, talk to your GP first and foremost. 

If you think you have been treated unfairly because you have spoken out about your mental health, you can contact the Equality Advisory Support Service discrimination helpline, right here

And finally, if you are ready to take the leap and disclose your mental health disability to your employer, you can read more of our advice on Careers with Disabilities on this page.

If you need a new job where you will be accepted and supported, you can also take a look at our inclusive and accessible live disabled job board. Here, you will find lots of job listings posted by Disability-Friendly employers.

Picking the right employer is sometimes half the battle. Everything is easier in a safe and inclusive environment. 

Share This Story

Last Updated: Monday August 8 2022

Latest News


Go to Top