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Mental Health

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Money and housing


If you are unable to work because of mental illness, there are some options for financial support. These include disability insurance and/or disability payments through Social Security.

Disability insurance

Some people purchase disability insurance policies either on their own or through their employer. If you've been paying each month into a disability insurance policy, you may be able to receive payments. Contact your employer or insurance company for more information.

Social Security and disability payments

Mental illness, like a physical illness, can be disabling. Persons with a serious mental illness are just as entitled to disability payments as persons with a serious physical illness. If you or your relative has a mental illness such as schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, manic depression, or another disabling brain disorder (mental illness), you may be entitled to benefits from the Social Security Administration. For all inquiries, call the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 or visit their website at http://www.ssa.gov/.

If you become disabled because of your mental illness, you may be able to get disability benefits if you have worked long enough and recently enough under Social Security. The amount of work you need increases with age. You need credit for 1½ years of work out of the past 3 years if you become disabled before age 24 and up to 5 out of the last 10 years if you become disabled at age 31 or older. Some women lose their disability coverage when they move in and out of the workforce and do not meet the recent work requirement. If you need help figuring out how much work you need to maintain your disability coverage, call your local Social Security office.

You will be considered disabled if you cannot do work that you did before and it is decided that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s). Your disability also must last, or be expected to last, for at least a year or to result in death. After you receive disability payments for 24 consecutive months, you also will have Medicare protection.

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Learn more about housing options for persons with mental illnesses:
For people with severe mental illness, home can be a space to live in dignity and move toward recovery. When you are considering a new place to live, consider:

  • How much can you afford to pay?
  • Is the neighborhood pleasant? Is it safe?
  • If you share your living space, will your housemates be compatible?
  • Is the house, apartment, or room in good condition?
  • Is transportation to shopping and your treatment center nearby?
  • How much support will you need to carry out everyday activities?
  • Does your prospective landlord have a reputation for responding promptly and courteously to tenants' requests?

The U.S. government provides some housing programs that may apply to you if you're having financial difficulty due to your mental illness.

Public housing

Although the kinds of housing vary from state to state, public housing programs basically work as follows:

  • Section 8 - The tenant-based rental assistance program provides vouchers or certificates to subsidize rent. Under this program, a person pays either 30 percent of his or her adjusted income, 10 percent of gross income, or the welfare assistance amount designated for housing. The certificate or voucher pays the remainder of the rent to the landlord.
  • Chapter 9 - The project-based rental assistance program offers landlords an incentive to provide housing for people with disabilities by paying money toward the rental building. There are more people who apply for this program than available apartments.

Other housing

States and localities also fund housing programs. In addition, some for-profit organizations offer housing for people with disabilities. Contact your local or State mental health authority to find out about licensing and required services. In general, many localities offer several of the following options:

  • Private residential housing
  • Commercial boarding homes
  • Supported independent living
  • Personal care group homes
  • Community residential rehabilitation centers
  • Structured residential programs
  • 24-hour care homes and nursing facilities

Your local affiliates of The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) should have information on housing options in your area.

Content last updated: March 29, 2010.

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