Mental Health Awareness Week 2023
The 15th May to 21st May is Mental Health Awareness Week. It is important to understand that mental health issues and learning disabilities are not the same thing, as they are often confused for one another. Whilst learning disabilities and mental health are not the same, people with learning disabilities statistically much more likely to suffer from mental health issues, so it is important to raise awareness about this.
What is mental health awareness week?
Beginning in 2001, Mental Health Awareness Week is a yearly awareness day that provides the opportunity for the whole of the UK to focus on mental health. After years of being ignored and hidden away, Mental Health Awareness Week brings mental health back to the spotlight of public life and aims to tackle stigma by helping people understand and prioritise mental health of everyone.
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week is Anxiety and what can be done to prevent it. In previous years, Mental Health Awareness Week focused on different topics such as loneliness, nature, kindness, and body image.
Mental Health problems and learning disabilities, what’s the difference?
A mental health problem is a term used to cover a range of emotional, psychological, or psychiatric distress experienced by people. Mental health issues can effect anyone and mental health issues can often be improved through treatment. In comparison, a learning disability is a reduced intellectual difficulty with everyday activities which affects someone for their whole life.
People with a learning disability do not always have mental health problems. However, they are more likely to have mental health problems, compared to people without a learning disability.
Mental health problems among people with a learning disability, an overlooked issue
People with a learning disability are experiencing higher prevalence of mental health problems. However, due to poor understanding, awareness, evidence in this area and symptoms mistakenly attributed to the person’s learning disability and mental health problems among people with a learning disability remains an overlooked issue.
Data has shown that people with lower intellectual ability have high rates of symptoms of common mental health problems (25%), about 10 percent higher than people with an average intellectual functioning.
One study found that 54% of people with a learning disability have a mental health problem.
Children with learning disabilities are 4.5 times more likely to have a mental health problem than children without a learning disability.
Why are people with learning disabilities more likely to suffer from mental health problems?
Lots of different reasons have been suggested to explain why people with a learning disability are more vulnerable to mental health problems. These include the fact that people with a learning disability are more likely to experience deprivation, poverty, and other adverse life events earlier on in life, an increased risk of social exclusion and loneliness and other people’s negative attitudes towards people with a learning disability.
A major barrier to diagnosing mental health problems in people with a learning disability is that symptoms shown by someone with a learning disability might be seen as behaviour related to their learning disability instead of the real problem – the mental health problem.
How can we help?
There are lots of different techniques that are used to treat mental health problems and these include cognitive behavioural therapy, talking therapy, psychodynamic therapy and medication.
Here at Leeds Mencap, we are on hand to provide support for young people and their families as they navigate their journey with learning disabilities. Our friendly family support service can offer one to one practical advice and emotional support. You can get in touch with them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0113 235 1331.
It is important to remember that Leeds Mencap are not mental health professionals, so if you are looking for support with your mental health please use the sources below:
Leeds Mind- Has information regarding a range of mental health services across Leeds- https://www.leedsmind.org.uk/
Mindwell- Has information and resources about mental health for adults across Leeds https://www.mindwell-leeds.org.uk/
Mindmate has information about child mental health support in Leeds-https://www.mindmate.org.uk/im-a-professional/services-leeds-young-people/
Mind has resources and links for people with learning disabilities who are struggling with their mental health-https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/learning-disability-support/