One of the hardest things about having a mental illness is that’s invisible. For years we have had the message that only physical disabilities are “real” shoved down our throats…even the handicapped logo perpetuates this, it being a person in a wheelchair!
Because Anon has a mental disability, and not a physical disability, we have been told she doesn’t qualify for lots of things that she legally should be entitled to, and that would really help us. I’m not even talking about benefits here (although that is a nightmare too!), but just day-to-day passes that could help.
We have been refused a disabled person’s bus pass and a disabled person’s railcard. Legally, Anon qualifies for both of these, but we have thus far been prevented.
The disabled railcard we only discovered within the past year; Anon found a pamphlet at our local station. To be able to qualify for a railcard the leaflet listed the following criteria: be a wheelchair user, not being able to walk over a certain distance, being blind, having a learning disability and not having use of both arms. There was nothing there about mental disabilities, and if I recall correctly it even stated mental health problems did not count…and so we assumed that we need not apply.
However today Gog stumbled across the Disabled Persons Railcard site, which states:
“You will qualify [for the railcard] if you:
- Receive personal independance payment (PIP)”
It was the very first point that was listed! Funny how they didn’t include that in the pamphlet, isn’t it?
We have tried to apply several times for a disabled person’s bus pass. The first was in 2012, in a different county, so the rules were slightly different. You needed to fill in a form, and have a GP write your issues, symptoms and reasons why you couldn’t drive in a box.
We booked an appointment at our local surgery, and took along the form. The GP, who we had never seen before, listened to Anon’s symptoms and said he would fill it in for us…the next day a receptionist told us he couldn’t, and that we had to fill the form in ourselves. What? Okay, whatever.
Then we moved to a new county, and some years later we applied for a slightly different disabled person’s bus pass. This time we had to go to a local library and use a system where you speak into a phone, and can see the person you’re talking to on a small screen. This raised huge red flags for Anon, but when Gog asked if he could be the middle-man and do the talking they refused.
Anon has huge, huge issues with talking on the phone (all her mental health professionals know that Anon physically cannot talk on the phone). She is also highly uncomfortable talking to people she doesn’t know, especially about intimate things. This was made much worse with the fact that she was sat behind a flimsy partition, in the middle of a busy library, and everyone nearby could hear her talking about very personal issues.
Nevertheless Anon gave it a bash. Now, the disabled pass we were applying for states that people with a mental disability qualify, providing that if they applied for a driving license, their application would be refused because of their mental health problems. With auditory and visual hallucinations, reckless behaviour, paranoia and suicidal ideation, Anon’s most certainly would.
So we sat behind the partition; Anon in front of a screen and Gog a few feet in the background, telepathically sending support. Communication went through and, shakily, Anon explained what we were trying to apply for.
The woman replied that unless Anon’s medications affected her ability to drive (such as causing excessive sleepiness, slow reactions etc) we would not be able to qualify. She said the only way we could get a disabled person’s bus pass was if we went to a medical professional (which does NOT include a GP) and they wrote a letter stating that Anon’s meds affected her severely.
This is absolutely ludicrous, and Anon was so shaken up by the process that we never tried to apply again.
The most ridiculous part is that it clearly states on the pass’ site, which is entirely dedicated to helping people apply for the concessionary card, that :
“If, for people with any of the disabilities listed above [which included ‘severe mental disorder’], the local authority can be confident that a licence would be refused they should therefore be able to issue the travel pass automatically”
It even says on the site that there is no need to apply, and subsequently be refused, a driving license in order to qualify for the disabled bus pass!
As a carer, I (Gog) have emailed the DVLA themselves to ask for advice, and to see if Anon would qualify for a driver’s’ license or not. This is a huge farce, and could take weeks.
Please people, having an ‘invisible’ disability is hard enough already…there’s really no need to make it harder.