New research, highlighting innovations and making recommendations for improving nationwide services for people with disabilities were among the main topics up for discussion as part of a roundtable event, held in New South Wales (NSW) last week.
The national roundtable at University of New South Wales (UNSW) brought together more than 100 leading mental health and disability experts together on 27 March to focus on the more than 400,000 people in NSW living with an intellectual disability, and to discuss the action needed to improve the mental health of these residents.
NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research, Brad Hazzard, opened the event by addressing the barriers that people with intellectual disability can face when accessing appropriate mental health services and support.
“People with disabilities deserve to receive the best health treatment possible but all too often, for a range of reasons, that standard of care is not always delivered,” the Minister says.
“The Roundtable forum offers an opportunity to ensure the health community of NSW can lead the way on ensuring better outcomes for all members of our community, including those with disabilities.”
As one of the advocacy groups who took part in the roundtable at UNSW, Chairperson with The Council for Intellectual Disability, Michael Sullivan, took focus on the ongoing improvements to how mental health is managed for people with disability, saying it is crucial to ensure recognition for people suffering with mental illness.
“Even now, after a lot of work and advocacy, we are often completely left out of the conversation about mental health,” he says.
“We are not encouraged enough to get help early - it is a fact that early intervention is one of the best tools to avoid serious mental illness.
“Early signs are often overlooked as behaviours relating to the person’s disability, and we need to recognise these to make sure the window to intervene isn’t closed too soon.”
Professor Julian Trollor, Chair of Intellectual Disability Mental Health UNSW also highlighted the substantial health gap for people with intellectual disability, saying:
“Often mental health professionals are inadequately trained to meet the needs of people with intellectual disability and services are not prepared to be accessible to people with disability and carers.”
He adds that the UNSW team is working with professional groups and services to make improvements to the support provided to, and the outcomes given to, people with disabilities with mental health issues, by developing apps and mental health guides.