Parents and caregivers need more training to identify signs and symptoms of mental health


By Angela Hassiotis, PhD
University College London

There have been a few studies identifying specific issues related to mental health needs among adolescents with intellectual (and potentially developmental) disabilities (I/DD). Current research indicates that adolescence can be a difficult time due to a number of transitions that are taking place; as well as the fact that several mental disorders, develop during this time.

What did you do in your research?
We interviewed 75 adolescents (12-18 years of age) with I/DD to understand their mental health needs. The project took place in one area in England, UK.

What did you find out?
  1. Most of the sample had mild intellectual disability.
  2. Over half of the participants had an identifiable mental disorder or behavioral problem.
  3. Parents may not always recognize that their child has a mental illness as they reported lower rates of problems than what we found in our clinical assessments.
  4. About 25% of adolescents were taking some type of psychiatric medication.
  5. Service facilities did not follow the most severely affected cases.

What are the take-home messages?
  1. Parents and paid caregivers require more training in identifying signs and symptoms of mental health so that the adolescent can receive help sooner.
  2. There are some predictors that professionals can consider as warning signs to identify individuals at risk; specifically family history of mental illness, more severe intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder.
  3. Personalized care is very important in terms of targeting vulnerable individuals, so that their families can make best use of finite resources.

To learn more about these findings contact
Angela Hassiotis or check out Project website.

Full Journal Article
Hassiotis, A., & Turk, J. (2012). Mental Health Needs in Adolescents with Intellectual Disabilities: Cross-Sectional Survey of a Service Sample. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 25(3), 252–261.


Centre for Health Service Research in Intellectual Disabilities (CHSRID)

A Manual of Cognitive Behavior Therapy for People with Learning Disabilities and Common Mental Disorders

Intellectual Disability Psychiatry: A practical handbook