NDIS must improve application process which makes people's mental health worse

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My name is Katie.

I applied for the NDIS for my psychosocial disability over the phone last October, and was given no indication of what would happen next and how long it would take. I took to social media and found a group on Facebook called NDIS Grassroots Discussion page, which now has over 25000 people on it. There is a lot of information on it, talking mainly about physical disabilities; but not much about mental health. I found lots of info and received good help for planning for my three kids, who all have autism. Social media is a great tool, especially for those with mental health issues because talking to people over the phone can sometimes make us extremely anxious. So many people with psychosocial disabilities are turning to social media prior to applying for the NDIS, to find out more about it. This process in itself has been detrimental to my own mental health, due to it being exhausting and also witnessing some stigma towards people with mental illness.

This is why I decided to start the Mental Health and NDIS facebook page a couple of months ago. I believe we can't just want things to change, we need to take pro-active steps to make it happen. I wanted to keep the group respectful and supportive, so from the very beginning I have sent out a message request to everyone who joins asking that they confirm that they are a current or potential NDIS participant (with a pychosocial disability?), or a parent or carer of a participant. Currently we have over 700 members and this is growing daily.

What I've discovered is that NDIA pre-planning is botched. Firstly it's taking months for applications to come through. Secondly we have been given misleading and incorrect information and false hope. I have bi-polar. PTSD, depression and anxiety. I rang the NDIS in January and at the end of the phone call I was told I was conditionally approved. After checking with the person I spoke to at the NDIA , I got my GP to fill out the forms and handed them in to my local office. Two days ago I sent them a message as a plea for help. I have no family down here, only one friend as a support: I am a full time carer to my 3 children under 8 who all have autism, and my eldest was recently diagnosed with ADHD. I have been going downhill over the past few months and I am beginning to worry about my capabilities in being able to safely parent my children. My 3 boys have NDIS plans, however I have had to cancel their appointments for the next month because the thought of leaving the house at the moment is causing me severe anxiety. I honestly thought because of my situation that the NDIS would perhaps be able to fast-track my application which is why I put in a complaint. I was told, by the lady who called in response, that despite having the forms filled out by my GP and the NDIS website stating “You must provide us with evidence of the diagnosis of your disability from your treating doctor or specialist.”, apparently now there isn't enough evidence of my disability. If they weren't going to accept it from the GP, then we should be told this. Now they are sending out new forms, which they want my psychiatrist to fill out. So I have to make an appointment with them; which could take weeks or even months to get in (?), and then I have to hand the forms back in and wait again for NDIS to contact me.

I have never been well, as a child I was a victim of physical and mental abuse. I moved interstate to get away from my family. I'm going to reveal something very personal here but I want people to understand why I am so upset, that my anger and hurt is valid. *Trigger warning* When I was 21, my real dad's brother moved to NSW and I was getting to know him, hoping for some sense of family. In October 2008 he raped me. In November 2008 I found out I was pregnant. My life turned upside down from this day. I decided to keep the baby as I couldn't bear to have (?) an abortion. I knew whatever I chose would affect me in some way. For the next two or three years after this I don't know how I got through. I loved this little baby that came into my life, but he was also a constant reminder of what happened. I attempted suicide twice in the first 3 years. Two years ago my experience of sexual assault was officially recognised in NSW, and I was approved for a victims of crime pay out. I need more support but hardly know where to begin. I have slowly come out of that very dark patch at t eh beginning, but nothing else has changed. I have absolutely no motivation, I am constantly down and feel myself going further downhill. I accessed a private psychiatrist just over a year ago so I could get medication, this was the first help I had sought out and it's all I have now.

All that being said, I have been very unwell for 9 years. I have clear diagnoses, and also a very obvious traumatic event, that just simply won't go away. The terrible impact on my ability to function day-to-day has been huge. I was hopeful that the NDIS was going to be the ray of sunshine in my life. It offered up so many options for help. I knew with such an extensive program in place that I might get to start learning how to live properly again, and maybe even have a chance at being happy one day. Now I just feel lost and let down.

I wouldn't normally have the energy to fight, but I have to believe that I have just as much right to access to the NDIS as others with physical disabilities. I did everything they asked me to and it wasn't good enough. Why do I have to jump through hoops?

This step I'm taking, in speaking out, isn't just for me. For months now I have heard stories via both the Mental Health and NDIS & the NDIS Grassroots Discussion Facebook groups that make it clear - it's happening to many people. Someone needs to stand up and let the world know what's going on.

After I publish this petition I am going to go back to the group and ask them if any of them are willing to share their survival story publicly, and if so I'll post them in the comments section.

Please please please sign this petition and spread it far and wide. The future of Australia having helpful access to this government funded program depends on this working much better.

 



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