Doctors have called for mental health professionals to be made to undergo an independent assessment, saying there is a lack of evidence to suggest the condition is a disability.
The Australian Medical Association said there was a lack to date of any evidence that mental health issues can cause disability and that there should be an independent review.
Dr Paul Hynes, a member of the AMA’s mental health committee, said he was “appalled” by the decision.
“If you have mental health problems you have to have a good reason for them,” he said.
He said there needed to be a more comprehensive approach to mental health services.
In Australia, doctors make assessments on a case-by-case basis, based on the patient’s history, physical health and other evidence.
But the AMA says there is “no evidence that it is possible for mental disorders to be recognised as a physical disability”.
“There is no evidence that this is true in Australia,” Dr Hynes said.
“There is also no evidence from the research literature that mental disorders are not a physical impairment.”
The AMA’s decision comes as a series of research articles suggest there is no conclusive evidence to show that mental illness causes disability.
Dr Hinkson said it was important for doctors to be informed of the evidence before making any decisions about the treatment of their patients.
“I would say that we should be talking to our doctors to find out what evidence there is to support the assertion that mental illnesses are a disability,” he told ABC News Breakfast.
A spokeswoman for the Australian Medical Society said it welcomed the AMA decision, but was concerned about the impact it might have on the treatment and care of mental health patients.
She said the AMA had “failed to provide a full assessment” of the available evidence on the topic.
“It is our view that this does not give patients and their families the confidence that mental issues are not disability-related,” she said.
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