Senior Woman Comforting Man With Depression At Home

Around the world, some 322 million people live with depression. Of that number, about 17 million were from the United States in 2017. Even though depression is clearly widespread in this country, many people don’t know much about it. So, what should the roughly 17 million people in the U.S. know if they have depression? Is depression a disability?

Is depression a disability?

Yes, depression can be a disability in some cases. Both the Social Security Administration and American with Disabilities Act recognize it as having the potential to become a debilitating condition.

Can you claim disability for depression?


However, the depression has to be extremely severe and debilitating. Even then, the Social Security Administration may not accept your disability claim. There are several strict requirements that generally must be met in order to be eligible for depression benefits from Social Security.

What Affects Eligibility Status?

Considerations that affect eligibility status include:

  1. If your condition prevents you from working for at least one year OR your condition prevents you from working because it is terminal
  2. If you meet the criteria of two different earnings tests: a recent work test and a duration of work test
    • Recent work test: You must have worked a certain amount of time based on how old you were when you became disabled
    • Duration of work test: You must be able to prove you have worked long enough to have earned any Social Security benefits
  3. If you can provide all appropriate documentation
  4. Your current employment status and income
    • If employed: You must earn under a certain amount each month (go here for 2020 numbers)
    • If unemployed: You also must meet or be under a certain monthly income level in order to be further considered
  5. The severity of your condition
    • According to the Social Security Administration, a disability “must significantly limit your ability to do basic work activities—such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting, and remembering—for at least 12 months”
  6. Your depression is medically documented with at least five of the following symptoms, according to the official Social Security site:
    • “Depressed mood;
    • Diminished interest in almost all activities;
    • Appetite disturbance with change in weight;
    • Sleep disturbance;
    • Observable psychomotor agitation or retardation;
    • Decreased energy;
    • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness;
    • Difficulty concentrating or thinking; or
    • Thoughts of death or suicide”
  7. If your depression doesn’t mean #6’s criteria, then your state’s agency will evaluate whether your disability will prevent you from working in any of your past occupations
  8. If a state agency determines your medical condition would have inhibited your past work, they will then consider if you’re qualified for other types of work based on several factors

Is this List Complete?

This list is not complete. In other words, there can be exceptions for some of these requirements/considerations. For more information on claiming disability benefits under Social Security, you can go here.

What rights do you have when depressed in the workplace?

Even if you don’t qualify for Social Security benefits, you may still be entitled to protection under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, you can be protected if you have a documented substantial disability, a history of such a disability, or your employer believes you to have one.

Some of the rights and protections you have when in the workplace with a mental illness include:

  • Asking for reasonable accommodations so you may more easily perform your job
  • Filing a harassment report if such behavior occurs
  • Keeping your conditions private (with a few exceptions)
  • Not being fired solely for your mental health condition

Getting professional help

Sometimes it’s necessary to get professional help to properly manage mental health conditions. If that’s the case, it’s important to remember that there’s no shame in seeking help, just as there’s nothing wrong with taking insulin for diabetes or getting a cast if you have a broken arm.

Emergency help

If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis, you may call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It is available 24/7 and free of charge. You may also chat with someone by clicking here.

Non-emergency help

For non-emergency help, you may call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). This service is available in both English and Spanish and offers helpful information and referrals to those seeking help with substance abuse or mental health disorders. This service is free and available 24/7.

Find affordable counseling near you

To find a low-cost counseling service in your area, you can visit Open Counseling’s website.

Depression: Know your rights

Depression can be a debilitating condition. Fortunately, you have plenty of protection. This mental health condition and others, like ADHD, are disabilities by law in some cases.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute professional legal advice.

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