Research and Reports: Mental health support for young people with learning disabilities

AuthorJonquil Ifans
Date01 December 2005
Published date01 December 2005
Subject MatterArticles
Probation Journal
Research &
The Journal of Community and Criminal Justice
Copyright © 2005 NAPO Vol 52(4): 435–444
DOI: 10.1177/0264550505058035
Mental health support for young people with learning

There are one-third of a million young people in the UK with learning disabilities
and 40 percent of these are likely to develop mental health problems. The mental
health needs of these young people are a neglected area and in 2001 the Foun-
dation for People with Learning Disabilities convened an enquiry to explore this
issue, resulting in a two-year programme of research aimed at improving access
to high quality services.
The research focused on four community-based projects that directly involved
the young people, including their views and those of family carers. The four
projects covered were:
● A project in Scotland examining how young people and their carers
understand anxiety and depression;
● A project in Bradford supporting young people with learning disabilities
and mental health needs from minority ethnic groups;
● A centre in Bristol looking at support for young people with learning
disabilities; and
● A study in Dundee examining the needs of young people with profound
and multiple learning disabilities and their carers.
The research findings confirmed that the range of mental health problems
experienced by young people with learning difficulties is similar to the general
population. However, these young people are more inclined to develop emotional
difficulties such as depression and anxiety that often goes unrecognized and
The research emphasized the social causes and context of mental health
problems and emotional distress. The lack of opportunities for young people with
learning disabilities in relation to accessing suitable college or work placements,
leisure opportunities, and maintaining relationships, were often the triggers to
mental health problems. The four projects demonstrated that the provision of

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