Mental Health prevalence among those with disabilities.￼
Did you know that adults with disabilities are 4 times more likely to experience mental health concerns and conditions than those without a disability? You read that correctly, it’s not double, or triple, its four times more prevalent within the disability community.
When we look at the prevalence of mental health conditions within the community, unfortunately it is well recognised that some groups experience higher rates of mental illness and psychological distress than others. These include those within the LGTBQI Community, individuals from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage, and those with disability.
The Facts and Figures of Mental Health amongst those with disabilities.
As we narrow in more on the prevalence of mental health conditions amongst those with disabilities, lets first understand some of the key findings to come out of the recent research performed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2020. Their research found that: high or very high levels of psychological distress are more likely to be experienced by:
- adults with disability (32%) – 4 times as likely as those without disability (8.0%)
- adults with severe or profound disability (40%) – compared with adults with other forms of disability (30%)
- men with disability (31%) – around 5 times as likely as those without disability (6.8%)
- women with disability (32%) – around 3 times as likely as women without disability (9.2%) (Figure STATUS.2).
- and that younger adults (aged 18–64) with disability are more likely to experience a higher level of psychological distress than older adults (aged 65 and over) with disability
Does mental health prevalence differ based on the type of disability?
The short answer is yes.
Looking at disability groups, the most likely to experience a high or very high level of psychological distress are adults with:
- psychological disability (76%)
- intellectual disability (60%)
- head injury, stroke or brain damage (55%).
The least likely to experience this are adults with:
- sensory disability (sight, hearing or speech) (28%)
- physical disability (33%) (ABS 2019).
Why are individuals with psychological, intellectual and cognitive disabilities at a higher risk of mental ill-health?
Let’s use the example of an intellectual disability, which often affects a person’s ability to learn new information, communicate, cope, and effectively solve problems on their own. These aspects can have a profound impact on an individual’s stress and vulnerability levels, leading to much great dependence on other and less independence in their day to day living.
As mentioned above, 60% of those who have an intellectual disability also experience mental health conditions, either consistently or periodically.
Individuals with both conditions may:
- have difficulty communicating their wants and needs
- not be able to describe their experiences, symptoms, or what they are feeling
- have symptoms or experiences that are different to what is expected
- use behaviour to communicate their distress.
It is important to remember however that mental health conditions affect everyone differently. This also applies to people with an intellectual disability, and to people where these are coexisting conditions.
Things you can do to Care For Someone With a Mental Illness and Disability.
If you are tasked with looking after a person with a mental illness, there are many ways in which you can help them:
- Provide emotional support
- Support them with day-to-day tasks
- Be there for them during challenging times
- Advocate for them
- Encourage them to seek help
- Promote their confidence in making their own decisions
- Support them throughout their treatment
Strategies to Use When Caring for Someone With a Mental Illness and Disability.
There are useful strategies you can implement into your care to provide the best support possible for a person with mental illness:
- Be honest, talk openly, and encourage them to be open with you and their loved ones about how they are doing and feeling.
- Do research about the illness using reputable sources such as government or health organisations or resources written by specialists.
- Encourage them to take an active role in their recovery and to live a healthy lifestyle.
- Set limits with them about how far you can go and what you are unable to help them with.
- Research local or online training courses for mental health carers.
- Join a mental health support group or meet with and speak to other people in similar situations.
- Take any talk of self harm or suicide seriously and reach out to a healthcare professional about it immediately.
- Make a back-up plan for alternative care in case you have to go away or need leave.
- Keep communication channels open when possible, not just with the person you are caring for, but also with family members, healthcare professionals, and medical administrative staff.
If you or a loved one is experienced mental ill-health, seek help:
- Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511 Open 24/7
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
Maple Community Services and Mental Health.
Here at Maple Community Services, we provide much-needed disability respite accommodation and support services under the NDIS. We specialise in mental health, cognitive disability, and psychosocial disability supports, working as NDIS short term accommodation providers.
If you have any questions around how Maple can assist you or your loved one through your NDIS journey, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Phone: 1800 780 964
Email: [email protected]