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One out of four of us suffer from mental health issues each year, however for adults and young people with learning disabilities, mental illness is much more common. Since today is World Mental Health Day, we believe it’s important to look at why this is more prevalent with people who have learning disabilities and to raise awareness around this issue.

There are many obstacles that people with learning difficulties have to face on a day-to-day basis and the frustration and sometimes isolation that can stem from them can increase the likelihood of mental health problems. These obstacles include:

Unemployment   

It’s no secret that people with disabilities are at higher risk of unemployment and find it much harder to get work. In 2016, the unemployment rate for people with no disabilities was at 4.6 percent, however for people with disabilities it’s double that – at 10.5 percent, which has been fixed since 2014. Obviously, unemployment has a significant impact to a person’s mental health, as it causes financial strain and huge self-esteem issues.

Social Attitudes

Even though there has been legislation passed that protects people with disabilities in the workplace and classroom, there are still social barriers that exist and are hard to overcome. This is mainly due to people’s lack of knowledge, which leads to the individuals facing discrimination and, particularly in younger adults and children, are more likely to be bullied and excluded from social activities, which no doubt will have an impact on the individuals’ mental health.

Raising awareness and educating others on different learning disabilities is one way to help reduce the stigma that surrounds some learning disabilities.

Experiencing More Negative Events

With some disabilities, the individual is likelier to experience more traumatic events such as injury and illness, negative attitudes, deprivation and poverty—all of which can have a negative effect on mental health.

If the individual isn’t getting the right support in the classroom or workplace, this can cause deep frustration and embarrassment, which is why it’s essential that these environments can offer the support and adjustments.  If you need more information on this, please visit our website, which offers a range of assistive technology and training sessions for your workplace.

How Can You Help?

Diagnosing mental health problems can be difficult, as Mencap describes: “A major barrier to diagnosing mental health problems in people with a learning disability is that symptoms shown […] might be seen as behaviour related to their learning disability instead of the real problem – the mental health problem. “

It’s important to be aware of some of the following symptoms of poor mental health, such as:

  • Feeling sad
  • Having low energy levels
  • Excessive fears and worries
  • Problems with concentration
  • Anxiety
  • Detachment from reality
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Withdrawal from social activities and friends
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Suicidal thoughts

mental health and learning disabilitiesRemember: each person is different and symptoms can vary, however if you know someone who may be struggling from mental health issues, it’s important to be respectful, start an open and honest dialogue and listen. 

There are many organisations out there that can listen and work with you. Mind, the mental health charity have a phone line and can offer assistance if you need urgent help, so please don’t be discouraged.

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