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When I applied for the Disability Tax Credit for my son, I was denied.

This is Revenue Canada’s criteria for receiving a disability tax credit: “To be eligible for the disability tax credit (DTC), a person’s impairment must be prolonged and their ability to perform the mental functions necessary for everyday life must be markedly restricted. Also, the restrictions must be present all or substantially all of the time. An impairment is prolonged if it has lasted, or is expected to last, for a continuous period of at least 12 months.”

My response: Psychosis is a serious medical condition that results from a disruption in brain functioning and affects up to 3% of the population. It involves some loss of contact with reality, characterized by significant changes in a person’s thoughts, beliefs, perceptions and/or behaviours. Psychosis can be a very confusing and frightening experience. Imagine hearing voices that no one else hears. Imagine believing that you are being watched or persecuted. Imagine thinking in a confused way, being unable to concentrate. Imagine being incredibly sensitive to and easily overwhelmed by sounds and other stimuli. 1 in 13 people living with schizophrenia commit suicide.

My son lives with these symptoms every day. My son’s current lifestyle is “markedly restricted” from what it was even though he takes the appropriate medication, is getting counselling, and has family and psychiatric support. He suffers from depression, typical of people living with schizophrenia. His short-term memory is impaired. He lost his job because he would forget assignments. Not only does it take an “inordinate amount of time” to do his job, he just can’t do it at all. He has difficulty processing verbal instructions. Because his earning ability was “markedly restricted” he lost his apartment when he couldn’t pay the rent. His seasonal work is supported by his employer and fellow workers who give him frequent “stress relief” breaks and shorter work hours. He forgets appointments. He sleeps an inordinate amount of time and suffers from a severe lack of energy. You must speak to him several times before he can shut out other stimuli and focus on your words. He listens to music for hours; it shuts out the “voices”.

For people living with a mental illness, the quality of life is “markedly restricted” . They need support and encouragement to function. Recovery isn’t an endpoint, or an outcome. It is a lifelong journey. My son is getting help from the CMHA and every month, I see a little improvement. All I’m asking for is a tax break while he struggles to manage this very serious illness, but I was told by Revenue Canada, even after explaining his illness and referencing the CMHA, that “he might get better.”

About Bonita O'Neill

Bonnie O'Neill is a 67-year-old retired elementary school teacher from Ontario. At the age of 60, she began a seven-year journey - caring for her 26-year-old son who had just been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. This blog documents that journey. She loves to knit and finds that living with someone with schizophrenia is a lot like knitting. Sometimes your work is wonderful, sometimes it unravels, sometimes it gets tangled and sometimes you just want to chuck it.

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