The power of personalised care when exploring the connection between learning disabilities and mental ill health
This mental health awareness week, we wanted to bring awareness to the link between learning disabilities and mental ill health, whilst exploring the positive impact a personalised care package can have on individuals needing support.
According to a study done by the Mental Health Foundation, 17% of people over 16 have a common mental health problem, but did you know that if you have learning disability that number jumps up dramatically, 54% of people with a learning disability were reported to suffer from a mental health problem. Children with learning disabilities are four and a half times more likely to have a mental health problem than children without a learning disability.
The connection between learning disabilities and mental ill health is complex and multifaceted. While not all individuals with learning disabilities experience mental health issues, there is a higher prevalence of mental health conditions among this population compared to the general population.
Here are some key points regarding the connection between learning disabilities and mental ill health:
- Common risk factors: Learning disabilities and mental health conditions can share common risk factors. These may include genetic factors, prenatal influences (e.g., exposure to substances or infections), birth complications, early childhood experiences, and environmental factors. The presence of these shared risk factors can contribute to the development of both learning disabilities and mental health issues.
- Psychological impact of learning disabilities: Learning disabilities can have a significant psychological impact on individuals. Struggling with academic tasks, experiencing difficulties with social interactions, facing stigmatisation, and having lower self-esteem and self-confidence can contribute to the development of mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, and low mood.
- Overlapping symptoms: Some symptoms of learning disabilities and mental health conditions can overlap or be similar. For instance, difficulties with attention, concentration, memory, executive functions, and emotional regulation can be present in both learning disabilities and mental health disorders like ADHD or anxiety disorders. These overlapping symptoms can make it challenging to differentiate between the two conditions and may require careful assessment and evaluation by professionals.
- Diagnostic challenges: Identifying mental health issues in individuals with learning disabilities can be challenging. Diagnostic overshadowing, as mentioned earlier, occurs when mental health problems are overlooked or attributed solely to an individual's learning disability. This can lead to delayed or inadequate mental health support.
- Impact on overall well-being: The presence of a learning disability can have a significant impact on an individual's overall well-being, including their mental health. Academic struggles, social difficulties, and feelings of inadequacy can contribute to increased stress, frustration, and emotional vulnerability, potentially leading to the development or exacerbation of mental health conditions.
- Access to appropriate support: Individuals with learning disabilities may face additional barriers in accessing appropriate mental health support. Communication difficulties, limited awareness of available resources, a lack of specialised services, and a lack of understanding about the specific needs of individuals with learning disabilities can hinder their access to timely and effective mental health care.
- Comprehensive support approach: Supporting individuals with both learning disabilities and mental health conditions requires a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach. This approach should address their educational needs, provide specialised interventions, promote social inclusion and support, and offer tailored mental health interventions that consider the unique challenges and strengths of each individual.
It is crucial to seek professional guidance from healthcare providers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and educators who specialise in working with individuals with learning disabilities and mental health concerns. They can provide appropriate assessments, interventions, and support to address both the learning and mental health needs of individuals affected by these conditions.
Supporting people with learning disabilities and mental ill health requires a person-centered and multidisciplinary approach. Here are some strategies to consider:
- Individualised assessment: Conduct a comprehensive assessment to understand the specific learning needs, mental health challenges, strengths, and preferences of the individual. This assessment can involve input from professionals in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, education, and social work.
- Collaboration and coordination: Foster collaboration among professionals involved in the individual's care, including educators, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, and support workers. Regular communication and coordination are crucial to ensure a comprehensive and integrated approach to support.
- Tailored interventions: Develop and implement interventions that are tailored to the unique needs and abilities of the individual. This may include individualised education plans (IEPs) that address specific learning goals, accommodations, and modifications in educational settings, as well as therapeutic interventions that address mental health concerns.
- Skill-building and support: Provide opportunities for skill-building and support in areas related to both learning disabilities and mental health. This may include social skills training, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques, self-regulation strategies, and executive functioning skill development.
- Accessible environments: Ensure that the physical and social environments are accessible and supportive for individuals with learning disabilities and mental health conditions. This may involve making adjustments in classrooms, workplaces, and living spaces to accommodate specific needs, providing visual supports, minimising distractions, and creating a safe and inclusive atmosphere.
- Emotional support and counselling: Offer emotional support through counselling or therapy to help individuals with learning disabilities and mental health conditions manage their emotions, cope with stress, build resilience, and develop self-advocacy skills. Support groups or peer networks can also provide valuable emotional support and a sense of belonging.
- Family involvement: Engage and involve family members or caregivers in the support process. Provide them with information, resources, and training to better understand and support the individual's learning disabilities and mental health needs. Collaborate with families to develop a consistent and holistic approach to support at home and in other settings.
- Community connections: Facilitate connections to community resources and support services that can provide additional assistance. This may include community mental health services, disability support organisations, recreational programs, vocational training, and employment services.
- Continuity of care: Ensure continuity of care by establishing a transition plan when the individual moves between different educational levels, transitions from child to adult services, or changes living arrangements. This includes providing appropriate support and information during these transitions to minimise disruptions and maintain a consistent level of support.
- Advocacy and empowerment: Advocate for the rights, needs, and inclusion of individuals with learning disabilities and mental health conditions. Empower them to self-advocate, make informed decisions, and actively participate in their own care and education.
It’s important to remember that each person is unique, and the support strategies should be adapted to meet individual needs. Regular evaluation and feedback from the individual and their support network are essential to ensure that the support provided is effective and responsive to their changing needs.
At Ategi, we recognise that personalised support is a power ingredient in promoting wellbeing and positive mental health in the people we support. Throughout all our services, (Shared Lives, Supported Living and Community Support) we provide support that is catered to the individual, promotes community connections and builds independence and self esteem.
Ategi people story: Trevor
Trevor has been supported by our Supported Living service for more than a decade. Watch the video above to find out how Ategi's strategies of personalised care transformed Trevor's life.
Read about Trevor and his story below.
According to a study done by the Mental Health Foundation, 17% of people over 16 have a common mental health problem, but did you know that if you have learning disability that number jumps up dramatically, 54% of people with a learning disability were reported to suffer from a mental health problem.