'Too many gaps' across mental health system for people with intellectual disabilities

Media release

6 June 2018

IHC is calling on the Government to take into account the rights, needs and circumstances of people with intellectual disabilities when addressing the factors that can lead to poor mental health and abuse.

In its submission to the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, it has recommended people with intellectual disabilities have the same opportunities to access public and mental health campaigns to enhance wellbeing and reduce violence.

IHC Director of Advocacy Trish Grant says it’s vital that people with intellectual disabilities and their families are included in all initiatives aimed at reducing inequities, improving education and employment outcomes, and addressing the social determinants of poor health.

“The lack of systemic action from the Government to address the disparities in access to healthcare and poor health outcomes experienced by people with intellectual disabilities is a national disgrace,” says Trish.

IHC recognises there are some aspects of support services that are working well, but they are limited in number and do not always cater well to those with intellectual disabilities.

“Whether coordination works well depends on where you are,” says Trish. “There tends to be regional variation with pockets of good practice despite thinly stretched resources.”

The first hurdle faced by people with intellectual disabilities is getting mental health concerns recognised so they can access help when needed.

“Presenting concerns are often dismissed as being ‘behavioural’ and due to the person’s intellectual disability, rather than indicative of an underlying mental health issue,” says Trish.

“And even if concerns are recognised there is typically a high threshold of severity required in order for referrals to be accepted by mental health services – waiting lists are usually long and timely access is rarely achieved.”

People with intellectual disabilities are among the most disadvantaged and experience some of the poorest health and wellbeing of any population group in New Zealand.

“There is a lot that isn’t working,” says Trish. “There are too many gaps across all aspects of the system for people with intellectual disabilities who face immense pressure accessing services.”



Media contact:

Jacob West
IHC Communications Advisor
027 807 7740