I feel lonely a lot. I’ve got lots of things going on in my head all the time. I feel bad a lot of the time. I’m trying really hard at the moment to work it out. I don’t know if I’ll ever work it out - do you? I don’t think anything is getting better. (O’Connor & Fowkes, 2000)

People with intellectual disability are much more likely than other members of the population to experience depression, anxiety and other mental illness (Hayes, 2007). In Australia, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW, 2008) estimates that, in 2003, 57 percent of people with intellectual disability who were under 65 also experienced some form of psychiatric disability. Despite widespread knowledge of the prevalence of mental illness amongst people with intellectual disability, signs of mental illness, such as depression and anxiety, are often missed (UIDH, 2011).

People with intellectual disability may experience a reduced capacity to participate in standard clinical assessment processes, which can make diagnosis very difficult and result in limited access to appropriate mental health care (White et al., 2005). In the past, some practitioners considered that people with intellectual disability were not able to develop mental illness, due to their cognitive limitations; any unusual behaviour was considered a feature of their disability. Today, unusual behaviour for a particular person is considered a good indicator that they may be experiencing psychological distress (Hughes, 2009). If a person is displaying unusual behaviour that is causing them distress, it is important to have them assessed by relevant mental health professionals. Encouraging the person to speak to their GP may be an important first step.

Once a mental illness is recognised, clinicians may face challenges in determining the most appropriate treatment and carrying out the treatment. People with intellectual disability often require intensive support from psychiatrists, psychologists, family, friends and/or support staff. For example, the process of determining the most appropriate medication can be extraordinarily stressful for the individual and their family members, as it may lead to even more difficult behaviours and situations at home. Family or support workers may decide that this is too harmful for the person (or themselves) and not complete the process before the best medication has been identified. As part of the treatment process, clinicians may neglect to consider whether different treatment approaches may be appropriate for individuals with intellectual disability – including considering the broader issues that may be contributing to the situation, or questioning whether a holistic response to the wider issues in the person’s life could be beneficial (such as appropriate counselling or other non-pharmacological responses).

Hospitalisation for mental illness can be a traumatising experience for people with intellectual disability. The environment of hospital mental health units is frightening for anyone, and is particularly so for a person with intellectual disability. It may be difficult for doctors to identify what behaviours are normal for the person (and part of their disability) and what behaviours are due to a mental illness. It is essential that support workers and counsellors who know the person well advocate on their behalf to the clinicians who carry out the assessments and treatments. This will enable clinicians to get a clearer picture of what is and is not normal behaviour for this person.

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The Disability Advocacy Resource Unit has launched a new online disability advocacy course. This free, self-paced online course provides an overview of what types of disability advocacy are available, a foundation in the human rights framework and how disability advocates use legal instruments and...
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Queensland Government media release The Palaszczuk Government is working to ensure the Queensland’s disability services workforce is a step ahead of the roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). In the lead up to the Premier’s Skills Summit this week (Wednesday 28 November)...
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The Accessible Housing Options Paper has been circulated for public consultation. The Australian Building Codes Board's Options Paper provides a preliminary menu of options and costings on the possible inclusion of a minimum accessibility standard for housing in the National Construction Code (NCC...
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International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) is a United Nations sanctioned day held each year on 3 December. It is a day that aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability. Thousands of registered events have been held across the country since the...
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Queensland Government media release The Palaszczuk Government is ensuring vulnerable Queenslanders not eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) are still able to live independently and remain connected and involved in their communities, with funding now available for...
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Minister for Disability Services Coralee O’Rourke today announced the start of public consultation for the review of the Disability Services Act 2006. “The Disability Services Act 2006 came into effect on 1 July 2006 and is the primary legislation in Queensland governing disability rights, services...
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Accessible housing is any housing that includes features to enable use by people either with a disability or transitioning through their life stages. The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) will be holding morning consultation forums in each capital city. These forums, commencing in October 2018...
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The WorkAbility Queensland Greater South East Queensland NDIS Workforce Action Plan is approaching its one-year mark. This plan was developed in consultation with skills ecosystem stakeholders across the region. We invite you to a session to reflect on the achievements of the past year and have...
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The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) hosted a panel style webinar to talk about self-management the video and transcript of the event is available online. The webinar gives the opportunity to hear about self-management, how it works and the benefits from families and people who are self-...
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Community, health and education workers are invited to attend a free webinar about meeting the access requirements for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Queensland. This webinar is for community, health and education workers with a basic understanding of the NDIS. The webinar will...

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Are you looking for support in Queensland, or trying to find a service that meets your needs? Now you can search oneplace , the service directory hosted by the Queensland Family and Child Commission. oneplace is an easily accessible directory of community services to help Queensland families to get...
The Queensland Disability Housing Coalition (QDHC) is a Statewide, independent housing organisation advocating for the rights of all people with disability and mental health issues. QDHC works with people with a disability, their families and support networks, to identify issues and concerns...
Peak organisation for community services organisations supporting people with a disability. www.nds.org.au
Queensland Government web portal with resources to support people with a disablity. www.qld.gov.au/disability
Queensland government departmental website www.communities.qld.gov.au/disability
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIFW) published Australia's Welfare in October 2017. The report provides an authoritative overview of the wellbeing of Australians, examining a wide range of relevant topics. Read the report here.
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How to Hear Me is a a resource kit for counsellors and other professionals working with people with intellectual disabilities. It was developed by WWILD Sexual Violence Prevention Association Inc. BROWSE ONLINE: How to Hear Me DOWNLOAD PDF: How to Hear Me

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Power of Attorney A power of attorney is a formal document allowing someone else to make decisions on your behalf; both personl and financial. This person can apply for a Domestic Violence Order on the behalf of someone experiencing domestic and family violence. The Powers of Attorney Act 1998...
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There are a range of legal structures which may be suitable for Queensland not-for-profit community groups. The four main options are: an incorporated association: Associations Incorporation Act 1981 (QLD) and Associations Incorporation Regulation 1999 (QLD) a company limited by guarantee:...
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Author: 
Louise Mullins, Queensland Council of Social Service

Did you know as many as one in five Queenslanders has a disability? Every day, some face barriers to participating in their own community.

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As the Queensland Public Guardian I am pleased to announce the inaugural opening of the Queensland Public Guardian’s Excellence Awards.

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