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- What you’ll find in the pictures
- Books that may be useful
- Mental health and grief – what you need to know
Mental health conditions and symptoms: depression, withdrawal, trauma, self-harm, behaviour that challenges;
Grief: end of life, bereavement, funeral, remembrance, bereavement counselling
Treatments: GP, therapist, medication, talking therapy, diagnostic tools
It is estimated that up to 40% of people with learning disabilities have mental health problems, and this can include any of the conditions suffered within the general population. People with learning disabilities may experience the same stresses and difficulties as everyone else, but some experiences, such as social exclusion, low income, bullying or abuse, lack of control and opportunity in their life, can be additional triggers for depression and anxiety.
In the past the mental health of people with learning disabilities was largely overlooked, and it is still too often neglected now. Diagnostic overshadowing can mean that people’s behaviour is written off as a part of their learning disability, and because services for learning disability and mental health are usually separate, it can be difficult to get the right assessment for someone with a range of difficulties.
Grief affects everyone at some stage in their life, and for people with learning disabilities some losses, for instance of a parent who may have been a primary source of care and support all through the person’s life, can be especially hard. The loss of close family can mean a total change in a person’s life, in terms of where they live and how they are supported every day. It has sometimes been thought that people with learning disabilities should be protected from the experience of grief, for example attending funerals of loved ones, and kept cheerful when losses occur, but this interruption of natural grieving processes, even to the extent of hiding a loss from someone, can cause very long-lasting mental health issues.
Counselling and psychotherapy has been found to be very effective for people experiencing mental health problems and bereavement, and barriers to good treatment are not because people are ‘untreatable’, but because practitioners may be fearful due to lack of experience, training and good resources. As with all health services, mental health professionals must work to provide reasonable adjustments to make their practice and service accessible to everybody. This includes flexible communication resources, such as Books Beyond Words, that can give people the power to explore their own mental health in depth and enter into effective and healing communication.
Our books help a wide range of people who understand pictures better than words, but their main audience is people with a learning disability, also known as an intellectual or developmental disability in other parts of the world.
This is a lifelong disability that may affect thinking, learning, emotional (adaptive) functioning and independent living skills. This sort of disability is distinct from a specific processing impairment, like dyslexia or attention deficit disorder. In the UK these impairments are typically referred to as “learning difficulties”, but this term is also preferred by some people with developmental disability, so the meaning is becoming blurred as people self-define.
As well as the primary audience, the books are often useful to people with low levels of literacy or specific processing impairment (“learning difficulties”, as per the traditional definition above), as well as people with sensory disabilities, other communication disorders (e.g. associated with dementia), and second language users.
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