Mental health diagnoses in persons with an intellectual disability : how health practitioners overcome the challenges.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Legislative changes in line with changing societal perspectives have resulted in increased service pressure on primary health practitioners to take further responsibility for the assessment and treatment of co-morbid psychiatric disorders in individuals with intellectual disability (ID) and for secondary and tertiary level services to reduce waitlists. The unique attributes of the ID population and a core lack of training for health professionals in the ID field has resulted in a large number of practitioners feeling under-trained and under-resourced to carry out this role effectively, to the potential detriment of the ID population. The challenges health practitioners experience when diagnosing co-morbid mental health disorders in individuals with ID and how they overcome these challenges was explored in this study. Participants were health practitioners of varying professions, including Psychiatrists, Clinical Psychologists and General Practitioners. Health practitioners completed an online survey and/or partook in a focus group or individual interview. The method used in this research was thematic analysis. The study found that health practitioners use holistic and contextual approaches to carry out assessments of individuals with ID, utilise ID specific tools, and liaise with experienced, specialised health practitioners as ways of dealing with the complexity of diagnosing co-morbid mental health difficulties in individuals with ID. In addition, it is recommended that more training in the ID area is provided for health practitioners, particularly for GPs in light of recent policy changes with emphasis of assessment and treatment occurring at the primary health level and for best practice guidelines to be developed. A further research project is suggested, exploring specific challenges facing GPs in this area of practice.