People with intellectual disability are not even mentioned in 77 page draft 5th National Mental Health Plan that has been put out for comment by the Australian Government.

You can view the plan and have  your say here

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 to the mental health of people with intellectual disability including:

    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 

  1. Include a focus on the research in relation to poor mental health of people with intellectual disability.

  2. Include “people with intellectual disability” in the list of groups whose specific needs should be considered when implementing actions identified in 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.

  3. 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 calls 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

     4. 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.Priority area five: physical health of people living with mental health issues

5. 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

6.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

The NSW Strategic Plan for Mental Health 2014-2024 includes specific sections focused on people with intellectual disability and other equity groups.

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