Step 1 – Mental health recovery, psychosocial disability and the NDIS

Recovery is personal. Recovery does not always mean living without symptoms of a mental health condition. People whose mental health symptoms respond to treatment can experience times when symptoms return. This can change mood, thoughts or behaviour in episodic ways, in ways that come and go or vary in intensity. Not everyone who lives with a mental health condition will experience psychosocial disability. However, those that do can experience severe social disadvantage. 

People with a significant disability that is likely to be permanent may qualify for NDIS-funded support

The National Disability Insurance Agency acknowledges that hope is important in recovery. 

The NDIA has a Mental Health Sector Reference Group to help include people with psychosocial disability in the NDIS. Read more about the Reference Group on the NDIS Mental Health Sector Reference Group web page.

Permanent, lifelong and episodic


To be eligible for the NDIS you need to experience psychosocial disability that is:

  1. likely to be permanent (lifelong)
  2. significantly affects your ability to perform everyday tasks or participate in activities
  3. likely to require lifelong support.

The level of support needed for psychosocial disability may not always be the same during your lifetime. You may go through ‘good’ periods and ‘bad’ periods (in the NDIS, this is described as ’variations in intensity’ or ’episodic’). If you live with an episodic mental health condition, that requires lifelong support, you may still be able to access the NDIS.

The NDIS and recovery

Describing your mental health condition as a “disability” that is “significant” and “likely to be permanent or lifelong” may not fit with your views of recovery. 

Remember: these are just terms used by the NDIS. They do not need to define you. With an NDIS plan, however, you can choose the services that will support you to live a meaningful life, which fits with your definition of recovery.

One new service you can access with the NDIS since 1 July 2020 is a ‘psychosocial Recovery Coach’. These are workers that can support you with developing and implementing a recovery plan, including things like building skills for managing day-to-day challenges in life. We’ve gathered together more information on Recovery Coaches in Step 5.

Useful links

A national framework for recovery-oriented mental health services: Guide for practioners and providers. Chapter 3 - Recovery the concept
A national framework for recovery-oriented mental health services: Guide for practitioners and providers
Fact Sheet: Psychosocial disability recovery and the NDIS
Psychosocial Recovery Coaches – Information booklet

To help support your application to the NDIS download the Reimagine Your Life Workbook

As you explore the 6 steps to accessing the NDIS, you will be guided to activities in the Reimagine Your Life Workbook, where you can complete questions and activities to support your application.

Co-designed with people living with mental health conditions and their support networks.
  • Produced by the

  • Funded by the

Accessing the ndis in 6 Steps.