This World Mental Health Day at Harrow Mencap, Jodie Spiers from our Harrow Activity Centre put together a special message.

Check it out below:

I would like you to look at my friend Peace and tell me what you can see.

How do you think I am feeling?

What do you think I am thinking?

Do you know what happened to me today?

Do I seem any different to anyone else?

Can you see that I needed help getting dressed this morning?

Can you see that I am not able to read the words on my dress?

Can you see I can’t communicate by speech?

Can you see I am not able to make my own dinner?

Can you see I don’t always understand why people are taking me places?

Can you see that someone got cross with me today for being too slow, but I wasn’t able to explain why?

Now can you imagine what I am feeling?

Can you imagine what I am thinking?

1 in 4 people in the UK experience mental health problems each year. If you have a learning disability that ration rises to 2 in 5.

Many mental health issues are overlooked for people with disabilities as symptoms and behaviours are attributed to the disability rather than a mental health problem, or they go unnoticed which can cause extra distress for the person, especially if they are not able to express their feelings so well, if at all.

However, people who have a learning disability or are on the autistic spectrum are no different to anyone else when it comes to mental health. Like anyone else, we can experience emotional, psychological and psychiatric distress. Anxiety, depression, eating problems, loneliness, anger, panic attacks, low self-esteem and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are just a handful in the range of mental health problems that we might experience. Some conditions such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and dementia are more common in people with learning disabilities.

Given the greater prevalence of health and social challenges that a person with a learning disability can face, it is no surprise that the statistics show a greater proportion of people with a learning disability experience mental health issues compared to the general public.

What are the causes?

Biological e.g studies have shown that anxiety is higher in Autism and Dementia is more common for people with downs syndrome. If you have a hearing impairment or are in pain it can increase the likelihood of mental health problems.

Social e.g Not having paid employment and income poverty have been shown to increase prevalence of mental health problems. Only about 50% of people with disabilities of working age are in work compared to 80% of non-disabled people of working age.

Psychological – such as self-esteem, coping strategies and interactions with ones environment are some factors here. Children with learning disabilities are twice as likely as other children to be bullied. Many people have negative attitudes towards people with disabilities. 70% of people have been shown to feel awkward around people with disabilities.

Developmental – greater degrees of learning disabilities are associated with more physical health problems and therefore more mental health problems. The communication needs of some people with learning disabilities disadvantages them and their health when staff do not have capacity and skills to communicate effectively.

How you can help keep me mentally healthy:

  • Learn about mental health issues and disorders and how they present. Remember I am unique so they may be different to the usual signs or may not be obvious.
  • Get to know me so you can tell if my mood or behaviour changes.
  • Notice what is happening in my life. People with LD can struggle with mental health for the same reasons as anyone else. So if there has been a recent bereavement in my family for example, see if I need support.
  • Learn ways to communicate with me that are accessible and meet my needs.
  • Seek support from professionals if you are unsure what to do
  • Make sure you speak to me in a clear concise way, checking that I understand.
  • Give me opportunity for me to communicate my preferences and make choices.
  • If possible speak to my family and cares so if consented to for further support.
  • Consider the impact of caring for someone with Learning disabilities and or mental health challenges. Maybe that person needs support too.
  • Help them to access advocacy and support groups for themselves.
  • If you are caring for me and experience emotional distress, help them access their own help, either through us or a referral to an appropriate service.

And finally remember I am just like you, so think how you might feel, and there is a chance I would feel the same.