Service development for intellectual disability mental health: a human rights approach

J Intellect Disabil Res. 2012 Nov;56(11):1098-109. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2012.01636.x.


Background: People with intellectual disability (ID) experience higher rates of major mental disorders than their non-ID peers, but in many countries have difficulty accessing appropriate mental health services. The aim of this paper is to review the current state of mental health services for people with ID using Australia as a case example, and critically appraise whether such services currently meet the standards set by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Methods: The literature regarding the current state of mental health services for people with ID was reviewed, with a particular focus on Australia.

Results: The review highlighted a number of issues to be addressed to meet the mental health needs of people with ID to ensure that their human rights are upheld like those of all other citizens. Many of the barriers to service provision encountered in Australia are likely also to be relevant to other nations, including the culture of division between disability and mental health services, the inadequate training of both disability and mental health workers in ID mental health, and the lack of relevant epidemiological data. None of these barriers are insurmountable.

Conclusions: Recommendations are made for adopting a human rights-based approach towards the development and provision of mental health services for people with ID. These include improved policy with measurable outcomes, improved service access via clear referral pathways and the sharing of resources across disability and mental health services, and improved service delivery through training and education initiatives for both the mental health and disability workforce.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Disabled Persons / psychology*
  • Disabled Persons / rehabilitation
  • Human Rights / standards*
  • Human Rights / trends
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / psychology*
  • Intellectual Disability / rehabilitation
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Mental Health Services / standards*
  • Mental Health Services / trends
  • Public Health / standards*
  • Public Health / trends
  • Workforce