Can an online program improve mood in people with intellectual disability?

At all stages of life, people with an intellectual disability (ID) are at least two to three times more likely to have a mental disorder than the general population.

At all stages of life, people with an intellectual disability (ID) are at least two to three times more likely to have a mental disorder than the general population.

Despite this, the right support can be difficult to find, and many people with ID experience substantial barriers to accessing mental health services. Few specialised services exist, and many clinicians worry they don’t have the experience or training to give people with ID the help they deserve.

“Mental illness is more common among people with intellectual disability than the general population yet there was nothing online specifically designed to be accessed by this community for support,” says Chloe Heck, Senior Project Officer at the Black Dog Institute.

One long-term Australian study found that less than 10% of young people with both intellectual disability and mental illness accessed appropriate treatment. This is significant in comparison to the 35% of people without ID who received mental health help in 2007.

Online mental health programs offer new treatment opportunities that may bridge access gaps related to stigma, exclusion from services, and limited practical support for people with ID.

In collaboration with the Department of Developmental Disability Neuropsychiatry (3DN) at UNSW, our researchers have developed Healthy Mind, a website that uses an Easy Read tool, designed to help people with intellectual disability recognise and regulate their thoughts and feelings.

The world-first program offers Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), mindfulness and positive psychology techniques adapted for users with mild to moderate intellectual disability. People with borderline-to-mild ID are invited to help test its effectiveness and build the evidence-base for online therapies in the ID community.

“We want to know if we can improve the mental wellbeing of people with ID by adapting CBT to meet their unique learning needs and delivering the therapy online” says Dr Baldwin.

Story Source: The Black Dog Institute

Georgia Franc

Georgia is a media & communications student at the University of Melbourne and is pursuing a career in journalism. She also has a passion for foreign languages, writing and travel. She also currently works as an associate for an investment management company where she focuses on data research with input on various marketing processes.