Mental health and emotional care and wellbeing for people with severe and profound intellectual disabilities
A Guest Blog by Dr Julie Calveley PhD, RNLD, BSc(Hons) Psychology, BSc(Hons) Nursing
Experiences involving the senses, interactions and the body can have a positive impact on emotional and mental wellbeing.
People with severe and profound intellectual disabilities are at particular risk of mental health problems, in part due to their vulnerability and their care, medical and support needs, which may also make them more susceptible to experiencing loss and trauma. It has been found that mental health problems, including depression and anxiety are more prevalent for this group than for the rest of the population.
NAC is a Community Interest Company (CIC) created to contribute to the improvement of emotional and mental wellbeing care for children and adults with severe and profound intellectual disabilities. NAC provides guidance on how to facilitate emotionally nurturing experiences, training and information and has four overarching aims:
· To increase awareness of the emotional and mental health needs of children and adults with severe and profound intellectual disabilities.
· To contribute to the improved emotional and mental wellbeing of people with severe and profound intellectual disabilities by providing care-givers access to practice guidance.
· To seek clinical collaborations for the improvement of accessible mental health therapies and treatments.
· To signpost other services and sources of guidance, training and information on the mental and emotional wellbeing care of people with severe and profound intellectual disabilities.
NAC’s values drive and determine everything we do:
• Integrity and compassion - Taking care of the mental wellbeing of everyone is important and this includes people with severe and profound intellectual disabilities as well as their carers and ourselves.
• Person-centred - What works for one person may be different to another and therefore any approach that is safe and is underpinned by science or shown to bring positive outcomes to a person can be beneficial.
• Free at the point of access - People with severe and profound intellectual disabilities should have access to suitably adapted approaches and support that others can access free of charge.
• Collaboration and sharing - We value joint working and believe that people with severe and profound intellectual disabilities will benefit most when knowledge, expertise, ideas and resources are pooled and shared.
Throughout the last century, approaches to addressing mental health problems have been mainly in the form of medication and ‘talking therapies’, such as cognitive behavioural therapy and psychotherapy for which a level of cognition and receptive and expressive speech and language are required, making them inaccessible for people with severe and profound intellectual disabilities.
However, over more recent years, in Western societies there has been an increased understanding of the inextricable mind-body link and of the body, relationships and the senses being a route to tending to the effects of trauma and to mental health problems. (See, for example Bessel Van Der Kolk’s ground breaking book - The Body Keeps the Score, What Happened to You? By Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey, the Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory by Stephen Porges, An Unspoken Voice: How the body releases trauma and restores goodness by Peter Levine and the extensive body of literature by psychiatrist and neuroscientist Daniel Siegel on Interpersonal Neurobiology). The body-oriented, interactional and sensory based therapeutic approaches that are espoused by these scientists and clinicians can, arguably be adapted to be accessible and effective for people who are non-verbal, including those with severe and profound intellectual disabilities.
NAC collates and provides guidance on wellbeing experiences for people with severe and profound intellectual disabilities that is easily and freely accessible and implementable by care-givers, parents and educators. The experiences do not require specialist equipment and are organised in the following categories:
Through the website, users can create collections of their favourite experiences for the people they are supporting.
What is most important is how these experiences are facilitated. For example, a walk in the park can be more emotionally beneficial if supported by someone who is attentive and responsive, rather than distracted by their telephone and not paying attention to the person they are with and the nature that surrounds them. NAC provides a range of training courses and workshops on the skills that underpin the assessment, implementation and evaluation of emotional wellbeing promotion. See www.nacwellbeing.org for more information.
For further information or to show an interest in collaborating or using NAC services, please do not hesitate to contact Dr Julie Calveley, PhD, RNLD, BSc(Hons) Psychology, BSc(Hons) Nursing
Thank you Julie for contributing your blog post:)