People with intellectual disability need quality mental health services not to be ignored


The Commonwealth Government has just release the National Mental Health Plan for comment, and people with intellectual disability are not even mentioned in the 77 page draft.  This omission defies belief in view of the terrible mental health disparities experienced by people with intellectual disability and the highlighting of the need for action on these in recent years.

We urge you to speak up for people for people with intellectual disability!

See for how you can have your say – by going to a consultations meeting, filling in a feedback survey or making a submission.

Feel free to use our arguments on why the plan must focus on people with intellectual disability  and how it can do that.  –

Why the plan must focus on people with intellectual disability?

  • Approximately 150,000 people with intellectual disability have mental disorders but poor access to appropriate mental health care.
  • The COAG National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 specifically calls for universal mental health initiatives to address the needs of people with disability.
  • The National Roundtable on the Mental Health of People with Intellectual Disability 2013 endorsed eight key elements of an effective response:
  1. The needs of people with intellectual disability and a mental disorder are specifically accommodated in all mental health initiatives.
  • The NSW Mental Health Commission included a specific and detailed focus on intellectual disability mental health in its 10 year strategic plan for mental health in NSW.

How the plan should include people with intellectual disability  

 The plan should:

  1. Include a focus on the research in relation to poor mental health of people with intellectual disability.
  1. Include “people with intellectual disability” in the list of groups whose specific needs should be considered when implementing the plan.  Already listed are: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or intersex people; and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
  1. Include specific measures through the plan so that the needs of these equity  groups are in fact acted upon. Without specific measures, the plan’s call for equity is likely to be little more than a motherhood statement.  This is the experience of people with intellectual disability and their families over many decades.

In particular, specific measures to ensure inclusion of equity groups are needed in the draft plans sections on:

  • Priority area 1: integrated regional planning and service delivery
  • Priority area 7: safety and quality in mental health care
  • Monitoring and reporting on reform progress

Priority area 2 : coordinated treatment and supports for people with severe and complex mental illnesses:

  • The plan should address that people with intellectual disability often have complex mental illnesses due to difficulties with communication and diagnosis and the interplay between the mental illness, the intellectual disability and the person’s social circumstances.
  • Include people with intellectual disability who also have a mental illness in the discussion about the interplay between the roles of mental health services and the NDIS. In the draft plan, the focus on the NDIS does not address the issues arising for people who have a primary intellectual disability but also a mental disorder. The focus is concentrated on people who have a primary psychosocial disability.
  1. Priority area five: physical healthof people living with mental health issues
    Include a focus on working with the NDIS on physical health issues for people with mental illnesses. Improved health and well-being is one of the key outcome measures being used by the NDIS in its outcomes framework.
  1. Priority area six: stigma and discrimination reduction
    Include a specific focus on discrimination against people with intellectual disability in the mental health workforce. For people with intellectual disability, their mental health needs notoriously go untreated on the assumption that the behaviour resulting from the mental health problem in fact flows from the intellectual disability.
  1. INCLUDE A SPECIFIC PRIORITY AREA ON THE MENTAL HEALTH OF PEOPLE WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY! The NSW Strategic Plan for Mental Health 2014-2024 includes specific sections focused on people with intellectual disability and other equity groups. If NSW can do it, so can Australia!

(The material was prepared by NSWCID which takes the lead on health issues for people with intellectual disability on behalf of all Inclusion Australia’s members)

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