Learning disabilities and mental health problems can be confused by people who don’t know much about them. The two are entirely different. However, people with learning disabilities can be more likely to have problems with their mental health.
Recognising mental health problems in people with learning disabilities
One of the main problems with mental health for people with learning disabilities is that issues often go unnoticed, undiagnosed and untreated. Many people with learning disabilities have difficulties with communication. This can mean that they aren’t enabled to express themselves articulately or that they don’t understand the facts and explanations that they have been given.
It’s not always easy to differentiate signs of mental health distress from usual behaviours in people with learning disabilities. Signs of mental health issues can often be incorrectly identified as challenging behaviour and tackled as such, without carrying out any mental health assessment.
If someone appears more withdrawn or anxious than usual, or if they need more prompting or forget skills they’ve previously learned, then it is a good idea to talk to them about how they feel and, if necessary, arrange a mental health assessment.
Reasons why people with learning disabilities are at risk of mental health problems
There are several reasons why people with learning disabilities are at higher risk of developing mental health problems than the general population. It can, in part, be down to biology and genetics. Someone dealing with a lot of pain or physical disabilities can find things difficult, and certain medications can also contribute to the risk factor.
A person’s living situation can have an impact on their mental health. If they aren’t getting enough stimulation or enjoyment from life, it can lead to problems. Life events such as the death of a loved one are sometimes not dealt with well and can affect mental health.
People with learning disabilities can be exposed to discrimination and stigma, which can have a negative effect on their mental health. There is also the problem that they are often not provided with the coping skills and resources needed to look after their mental health.
A mental health assessment will culminate in a care plan that may include treatment such as talking therapies, medication or a combination. Cognitive behavioural therapy can be helpful for some people, while others find relaxation therapy works for them. It will depend on the person and their diagnosis as different things work for different people.
Promoting good mental health
The best way to improve mental health is to take steps before it becomes a problem. Here at Halland House, we believe all our residents deserve to lead a happy and fulfilling life and feel they are a worthy part of a community. We encourage involvement in activities that are beneficial for mental health. This includes things like crafting, cooking, spending time in nature and taking part in our twice-yearly am-dram productions. We also organise regular outings so residents can get away from the home and have enriching experiences.
Our team members get to know our residents really well and this means they can tell when something is bothering them. We use different methods of communication where necessary to help residents show what they are feeling or thinking. We think of ourselves as a big family, which benefits both residents and staff.
If you think your loved one would benefit from spending time with other people with learning disabilities, you can find out more about daycare services at our learning disabilities care home in Uckfield, East Sussex. This is a great chance to make new friends, participate in fun activities, and see what life at Halland House is like. If you think you could be a good fit for helping people with learning disabilities to lead a contented and enriched life, you can find out about our career opportunities on our website.