Down's Syndrome Scotland - Learning Resources

Learning Disability is associated with an increased risk of mental health problems.

People with learning disability have a much higher incidence of mental illness. Estimated rates are around 40 %, which is much higher than rates in the general population around 27 %.

Children with learning disabilities are approximately 4 times more likely to experience mental ill health than their non-disabled peers.

The most common mental health concerns include: general anxiety, repetitive and obsessive-compulsive behaviours; oppositional, impulsive, and inattentive behaviours; sleep related difficulties; depression; autism spectrum disorders; and neuropsychological problems characterised by progressive loss of cognitive skills.

    Key Point

    Impaired communication can mean that these conditions may go unrecognised


    Recognising mental ill health

    When someone has a learning disability they may be unable or find it difficult to recognise their symptoms or seek appropriate help.

    Mental health problems experienced by people with learning disabilities may not be recognised by carers or professionals. Symptoms, may be attributed to behaviour or learning disability rather than illness.


    Key Point

    A detailed physical examination by a GP is necessary to exclude any underlying physical illness in the first instance.


    To aid diagnosis:

    A detailed history from the person with learning disability at a level they are able to communicate at is vital. This may mean taking extra time in a consultation or the use of visual communication aids.

    It is also important that family or carers give a detailed background history to the doctor. This allows a baseline level of functioning to be established so that any changes can be put into appropriate context.


    Key Point

    Specialist Learning Disability Mental Health services are available to meet the needs of children or adults with Down’s Syndrome.


    Quick Quiz

    Approximately how many people with Down’s Syndrome could experience mental health problems?


    If someone was experiencing mental health problems how could you recognise this?

    There could be a change in their usual behaviour
    They would be happier
    More content