Supporting the Mental Health of those with IDD

Working to provide adequate mental health seems to be a common trending challenge for people in many areas. From stigmas, to long wait lists, finding the right care provider can be difficult for anyone. However, providing the  specialized type of mental health care that those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) require is becoming and increasingly common challenge for all who work in this field. Along with life’s common emotional challenges, anxiety and depression can make live for those living with IDD much more vulnerable. It is a commonly underserved area of psychology.

Often, depression in those with IDD goes undiagnosed or simply mistreated as the signs and symptoms are often so different from that of a neurotypical person. People with IDD often don’t have as many things going on in their lives that would help them take their minds off of stressful things. They may argue with caregivers more. They may not want to socialize as much as before. Taking care to view individual habits is key in noticing if mental health is plaguing your loved one. Waiting for help from a professional can be agonizing and difficult, often leaving caregivers feeling lost and confused.

While mental health is not something you can totally avoid or often help on your own, what can we do to help those in need? Below are a few  ways you can help to encourage and support a loved one while awaiting help.

  1. Stick to an active routine: Everyone does better when they understand what is expected through their day.  When you develop regular opportunities to be active, you stimulate your brain to process things differently. You also encourage your brain to create new neural pathways. Interacting with others and being active tends to have a positive outcome.
  2. Actively seek out non-verbal stress relief rituals: Everyone has nonverbal habits which they perform in order boost their own spirits. Help the person to identify healthy ways that they can relax, and support them so they can relax more. They are particularly helpful to people with intellectual disabilities who cannot find solace in the written or spoken word. Noticing what helps a person with IDD can encourage personal daily habits of self care.
  3. Promote independence: Studies have shown how increasing independence can improve quality of life for IDD individuals as well as boost their mental health. Most experiencing mental health crisis decrease their own personal care, which only worsen their symptoms.
  4. Be honest and inclusive: It is difficult to talk about difficult things in most any situation. Many caregivers find themselves quite unable to be honest or to include and involve the person with a developmental disability.  Simply understanding that their feelings are acknowledged and that help is offered is useful to anyone with mental health issues.
  5. You are doing things right: Referrals for consultation with mental health specialists are typically difficult to determine and are often feel like they were made late. It is challenging to decide when a mental health crisis is occurring and noticing when additional help is required. Building awareness and continuing conversations relating to the mental health needs of people with IDD is critical. . As we work together to increase knowledge surrounding this need, we can better advocate for those we work the and those we love!
  6. Surround Yourself with Like Minded Individuals:  Being around those who are experiencing similar difficulties is often the key to discovering new paths to healing. Though everyone’s path will be different, having people to confide in can support you while helping others. If you are looking for a new support group don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Bright Horizon Homes!


Further Reading