Disability Benefits & Mental Illness

Updated June 13, 2017

Mental health disorders can result in disability. If this occurs, an individual who is unable to work may be able to collect disability benefits.


The severity of an individual's mental health condition must prevent the person from doing one or more major life activities to be considered disabled, such as going to work, maintaining relationships or caring for oneself.

Short-Term Disability

Short-term disability benefits may be available through your employer and can last up to 6 months. However, only New York, New Jersey, California, Rhode Island and Hawaii provide short-term disability benefits.

Long-Term Disability

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must have worked in the past and your condition must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least one year. SSDI estimates that it takes 3 to 5 months for a decision to be made once an application is filed.


When applying for disability benefits, provide medical documentation to support your inability to work. If granted, periodic updates every few weeks or months may be required to determine if you are still unable to return to work.


Benefits under the SSDI for mental health conditions are limited to a maximum of 2 years. However, an individual who becomes disabled from a nonmental health condition may collect benefits for a lifetime depending on the nature and severity of the condition.

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About the Author

Barbara Aufiero has been writing health-related articles since 2008, specializing in mental health and health insurance. Aufiero resides in New York and holds a Master of Arts in psychology.