If you have depression, you may be eligible for disability accommodations and benefits. Know your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting more than 300 million people. Depression affects an individual’s motivation, sleep, energy, concentration, appetite, and even their ability to care for themselves and others. Personal and professional relationships and responsibilities frequently suffer. Sometimes, depression can also lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.

Depression is often a recurring and lifelong disease. Left untreated, depressive episodes typically recur in 50% of people within six months. As a result, an estimated $1 trillion is lost in global productivity annually.

Feelings of depression or anxiety can lead to suicidal thinking. If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts or tendencies, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Disability Benefits for Depression

Because depression seriously affects an individual’s quality of life and what they are capable of, Social Security provides benefits for people with depression. These benefits fall under Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Most people who qualify for SSI are also eligible for food stamps and Medicaid. Individuals who are eligible for SSDI can receive dependent benefits for their spouse and children. They are also eligible for Medicare after having received SSDI for two years.

To apply for social security disability benefits for depression, an individual must have a clinical diagnosis of depression corroborated by their medical records. Other supporting criteria include a documented history of depression lasting for at least two years, depression accompanied by a limited ability to work and worsening of depressive symptoms at work, or an inability to live at least one year outside of a highly supportive living arrangement.

Is Depression Protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Yes, depression is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The ADA was amended in 2008 to cover people with mental health conditions and protect them against disability discrimination.

Concerning employment, an employer cannot discriminate against an individual with depression in job applications, procedures, hiring, training, compensation, advancement, promotion, firing, or any other job activity. To be covered by the ADA, an individual must substantiate their history of depression and the limitations it incurs. They must also be applying for employment, services, programs, activities, etc. that would not create an undue hardship or expense for their employers. This last criterion is satisfied via two conditions: company size and reasonable accommodation.

The ADA applies to all public and private entities with 15 or more employees. It also requires that employers make reasonable accommodations for their employees with depression. Reasonable accommodations are modifications that an employer can feasibly make to an employee’s work schedule or environment that allow the employee to work at their full capacity. For employees with depression, such accommodations may include job sharing, time off for therapy, extended leave after a hospitalization, permission to work from home periodically, and a quiet, low-stress workspace.

Your Rights Concerning Disclosing Depression

Businesses, educators and employers alike are forbidden by the ADA from asking someone if they have a disability, nor can they ask questions about a known disability. That means if someone has depression, it is advised that they be upfront about it and ask for any accommodations that they may need. If you are worried about disclosing depression, know that you are not alone. Nearly 18% of American workers report having a mental health condition in any given month. Psychiatric disability is one of the most common kinds of disabilities protected by the ADA.

For fear of stigma, misunderstanding, and retaliation, it may seem easier to forego disclosing depression. However, it is important to remember that reasonable accommodations are enforceable by the ADA. Any entity that does not comply with the ADA can and will be penalized. Your rights will be protected every step of the way.

If you believe a business, school or employer is violating the ADA, file a complaint today with the U.S. Department of JusticeU.S. Department of Education or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Your discrimination claim can restore you to the position you would have been in if the discrimination had never happened. Outcomes of your claim may include reimbursement for attorney fees, hiring, promotion, reinstatement, back pay, reasonable accommodation, or reassignment. Your fight against mental health discrimination will also help protect others from experiencing similar kinds of discrimination in the future.

Is Depression Recognized by the World Health Organization?

Yes, depression’s global impact is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO). Depression is one of the mental health conditions prioritized by the  WHO’s Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP). The mhGAP aims to close the gap that exists between the mental health services that are needed and those that are available. Given the deficit of mental health specialists worldwide, the program provides psychological interventions delivered by lay health workers to reach as many people as possible. The mhGAP also works to treat psychotic disorders and substance use disorders.

If you or a loved one struggle with depression and co-occurring addiction, The Recovery Village can help. You can receive comprehensive treatment for both conditions simultaneously from one of several facilities located throughout the nation. To learn more about depression and addiction treatment programscall The Recovery Village to speak with a representative today. 

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Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more

ADA National Network. “Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace and the ADA.” Northeast ADA Center, 2018. Accessed July 10, 2019.

Jezard, Adam. “Depression is the no. 1 cause of ill hea[…]disability worldwide.” World Economic Forum, May 18, 2018. Accessed July 10, 2019.

Sim, Kang & Lau, Wai. “Prevention of Relapse and Recurrence in […]of Controlled Trials.” PubMed Central, February 2016. Accessed July 10, 2019.

Social Security Administration. “Disability Benefits.” Social Security Disability Benefits, August 2018. Accessed July 10, 2019.

U.S. Department of Education. “State Contacts.” Parents, June 13, 2019. Accessed July 10, 2019.

U.S. Department of Justice. “Submit a Complaint.” Discrimination, August 15, 2018. Accessed July 10, 2019.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “EEOC Office List and Jurisdictional Map.” Field Offices, 2019. Accessed July 10, 2019.

World Health Organization. “Depression.” WHO Newsroom, March 22, 2018. Accessed July 10, 2019.

World Health Organization. “mhGAP Mental Health Gap Action Programme.” Mental Health, 2008. Accessed July 10, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.