Jun 19

Social care staff need to do more to support people's mental health

Posted: 17 June 2019

People with a learning disability can be more likely to experience poor mental health – but they’re also less likely to have access to adequate support. Skills for Care has worked with the Judith Trust and CHANGE to explore how social care staff can support people with a learning disability to talk more about their mental health.

There are many reasons why people with a learning disability are more likely to experience poor mental health.

One reason is that they can be more vulnerable to negative life events for which they don’t have the mechanisms to cope.

To explore this more, we ran five co-production sessions with people with learning disabilities and support staff.

Those very open and honest sessions found that, all too often, people with a learning disability haven’t had chance to heal from negative life experiences, which might include abuse, grief and/or trauma, and as a result they live their everyday lives feeling scared, worried and/or anxious.

The sessions also confirmed that they don’t always have access to the support that they need to improve their mental health, and rarely have the opportunity to talk about their feelings.

The people that we spoke to said that any mental health issues were often attributed to their learning disability rather than the real problem, and many reported that they were given anti-depressants as a solution rather than been offered a choice of support that would better meet their needs.

A call for change

The sessions confirmed that there’s lots that we need to do to improve mental health support for people with a learning disability – and this starts with staff being confident and knowledgeable to talk openly about mental health.

That’s why we’ve worked with the Judith Trust and CHANGE to develop a series of new resources to support these conversations.

This partnership has developed a set of top tips for talking about our feelings and two posters about some of the things that make people feel worried and what can help. These resources can be used as the basis for everyday conversations about mental health.

We’ve also produced a wellbeing journal for people with a learning disability to help them to think about their everyday mental health and what could help them.  

Make a difference today

One way to start is to take every day, natural opportunities to talk about how we’re feeling. You can start by asking how someone is feeling and let this simple interaction guide the conversation.

Remember, everyone’s feelings are important - we all need to be taken seriously when we talk about our feelings. When you’re talking with someone with a learning disability, take them seriously and don’t belittle or judge them. Just listen.

We all deal with our feelings in different ways so it’s important to find solutions that work the individual and take the next steps together.

Visit this webpage to see how our resources can help you make small everyday changes to improve conversations about mental health.