Psychiatric care of adults with intellectual disabilities: changing perceptions over a decade

Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2008 Oct;42(10):890-7. doi: 10.1080/00048670802345474.


Objective: In light of developments in training and service provision, the aim of the present study was to compare two state-wide surveys, undertaken in 1994 and in 2004, of psychiatrists about their perceptions of their training and psychiatric treatment of adults with intellectual disabilities who also have mental health needs.

Methods: A 50-item self-administered questionnaire was developed for the 2004 survey, based on the 1994 study. This was sent to all 624 Fellows of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatry registered in Victoria at the time. A series of questions was asked based on workload, training, the role of psychiatry in intellectual disabilities, opinions on assessment and management, improving services, and the demographics of participant psychiatrists. Results of the 2004 survey are compared with the 1994 study.

Results: There has been some change in psychiatrists' opinions about acute admission wards, believing strongly that they do not meet the needs of the adults with severe intellectual disabilities, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation. There has been some improvement in their ability to adequately manage adults with intellectual disabilities who have mental health needs and/or problem behaviours.

Conclusions: Mainstream mental health services fail to meet the needs of adults with intellectual disabilities. Improved specialist clinical services and more clinical training opportunities are required.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Catchment Area, Health
  • Child
  • Clinical Competence
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / epidemiology*
  • Intellectual Disability / psychology*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders* / psychology
  • Mental Disorders* / therapy
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatry
  • Social Change*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult