Learning disability and mental health

People with a learning disability can be more likely to experience poor mental health. We've developed free resources to help adult social care staff talk to people about their everyday mental health, and enable them to get the support they need. 

Background

It’s estimated that around 40% of people with learning disabilities also have mental ill-health. This is more than double the number in the general population. 

Often, people with a learning disability haven’t had a chance to heal from negative life experiences which might include abuse, grief and/or trauma, and, as a result, live their everyday lives feeling scared, worried and/or anxious which has a negative impact on their everyday mental health.

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

We worked with people with a learning disability to develop practical resources for staff, so they can become more confident and knowledgeable to talk openly about mental health.

The resources

Click on the headings below to download the free resources to help.

  • Top tips for talking about our feelings - these tips will help you to talk to people with a learning disability about their everyday mental health. 
  • What makes us worried and what can help – this poster explains some of the things that people with a learning disability said makes them worried, and what can help.
  • What can help with our mental health – this poster examples some of the things that people with a learning disability said helps with their mental health.
  • My wellbeing journal – this journal is for people with a learning disability, to help them to think about and write down how they’re feeling.

You can read more about this project and the findings, in the project report, here

 

These tips will help you to talk to people with a learning disability about their everyday mental health. 

They're for anyone that supports people with a learning disability, including care workers, support workers, managers and ancillary staff. 

 

You can download the poster and read the tips to improve your own practice. You can also share it with colleagues, for example in a newsletter, or print out a copy to put up in your service. 

Download the top tips poster

Top tips

  • Ask how people are feeling everyday. If you're talking about a personal problem, find a private place to talk. 
  • Think about how the other person communicates. Do you need any aids like EasyRead? 
  • Listen carefully. 
  • We all deal with our feelings in different ways. Take each other's feelings seriously and don't judge each other. 
  • It's important to come up with solutions and next steps together. 
  • It's important that we all give ourselves and the people we support time, space and empathy. 

This poster explains some of the things that people with a learning disability said makes them worried, and what can help.

Staff can use the poster to educate themselves about some of the things that make people feel worried, and what can help, and improve their practice.

You can also use it to help you to talk to people about their everyday mental health. For example, you could start a conversation with someone by asking them if anything on the poster makes them feel worried.

If you’re a manager, you could share the poster with your staff, for example, in a team meeting or on a staff noticeboard, to raise awareness.

People with a learning disability could also use the poster to help them to think about some of the things that make them feel worried, and what could help them. They could fill in this wellbeing journal to explore this further, and discuss it with staff.  

Download the poster here

What makes us feel worried and what can help?

Here are some of the things that people with a learning disability said makes them feel worried. 

What makes us feel worried?

What can help?

When I feel like my feelings don’t count

Being listened to

When I feel scared

Knowing that I’m not alone

When I don’t have the information in the format I need

Getting information in different formats

When I feel like I don’t have control

Making my own decisions

When I’m worried about my health

Share how we’re feeling and ask for help

When I feel under pressure

Relax

When I haven’t healed from my past experiences

Talk to a counsellor

 

This poster explains some of the things that people with a learning disability said helps with their mental health.

Staff can use the poster to educate themselves and improve their practice.

You can also use it to help you to talk to people about their everyday mental health. For example, you could start a conversation with someone by asking them if anything on the poster helps with their mental health.

If you’re a manager, you could share the poster with your staff, for example, in a team meeting or on a staff noticeboard, to raise awareness.

People with a learning disability could also use the poster to help them to think about some of the things that help with their mental health. They could fill in this wellbeing journal to explore this further, and discuss it with staff.  

Download the poster here

What can help with our mental health?

Here are some of the things that people with a learning disability said helps their mental health.

  • Talk about our feelings
  • Eat nice food
  • Keep busy
  • Make a plan
  • Go on holiday
  • Let our feelings out­
  • Look after our pets
  • Have hobbies
  • Have a good night’s sleep
  • Enjoy nature
  • Relax in front of the TV
  • Spend time with the people that we care about

 

This journal is for people with a learning disability to help them to think about their everyday mental health, and what they can do to help. 

It’s been designed using an easy read format so it’s more accessible for people with a learning disability. The journal has questions for them to fill in about themselves, and space to add any thoughts or questions.

They can keep the journal private or talk about what they’ve written with staff.

Some people might need help to read the journal and fill it in. This should form part of a range of support for people with a learning disability.

Download the journal here 

Feeling down: looking after my mental health (Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities)

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities was commissioned to write a report about the mental health of people with learning disabilities. 

They also developed an easy read, interactive guide to help people with a learning disability to take care of their health, with the support of their family, friends and support workers. 

It includes tools to help people speak to their GP about their mental health, a diary to record your mood, how to get help and much more, including: 

  • Part 1: What is mental health
  • Part 2: How to keep yourself feeling well
  • Part 3: What to do when you are worried about your mental health
  • Part 4: Planning a visit to your GP
  • Part 5: GP Information Pack

Download ‘Feeling down: looking after my mental health’ here.

The Green Light Toolkit (National Development Team for Inclusion)

All mental health services should be able to support people with a learning disability and autistic people. This tooklit will help them to audit and improve their service.

The tool will help services to think about what they’re doing now, how it’s working, and what they can do better.

Download the ‘Green Light Toolkit’ here.