It should not need stating that the rights of an individual with an intellectual disability are the same as those of any other member of society and that best practice in the provision of mental health services for people with intellectual disability is the same as those for all mental health services: citizenship, inclusion, access and community-based services.
An intellectual disability (synonymous with ‘learning disability’) is not a mental illness. However, the two often co-exist and intellectual disability “can be thought of as a risk factor for mental illness”. Studies of the relationship between mental health and intellectual disability estimate that 50% of people with severe and profound intellectual disabilities will have a mental health problem at some point in their lives, as will 20-25% of those with mild and moderate intellectual disabilities.
Intellectual disability services in Ireland provide a level of multidisciplinary person centred care that is focused on the social, vocational, educational and residential needs of the individual with intellectual disability. In general, such services do not deal with specialist mental health needs.
Gaps in current service provision were recognised in A Vision for Change, which noted amongst other things that “significant funds have been expended by health boards in recent years on inappropriate short-term placements for individuals with intellectual disability and severe mental health problems, or by “exporting the problem to providers outside of the State”.
In 2011, 5 years after the launch of A Vision for Change and midway through the 10-year implementation timeline, we turn our attention to developments in the provision of mental health care for those with intellectual disability.