Studies have suggested a higher incidence of mental health problems in people with learning disabilities, although there are some differences in estimates, which have varied in studies looking at people with learning disabilities who also have a co-morbid psychiatric disorder from 14 to 39%.
There is also evidence of increased likelihood of family members and staff providing support to people in this situation experiencing increased stress.
The researchers were keen to consider whether the evidence from mainstream mental health literature for the positive impact of psycho-educational family interventions on the person with the mental health difficulty and those in their family would be borne out in the field of learning disabilities as there is little published in this area in the learning disabilities literature at the moment.
The authors present a case study which shows how they implemented a family intervention with the support system around a person with someone learning disabilities, autism and chronic mental health difficulties.
They found that on a number of measures following the intervention, the family member involved reported a marked decrease in levels of strain.
They also found that the family and team members reported improvements in functioning within the support system.
In an area without an established evidence base, the use of case studies can illustrate learning and support improvements in clinical practice, and the authors conclude that this case study is a step towards understanding how the use of behavioural family therapy can potentially support the system around people with learning disabilities and mental health needs.
Utilising behavioural family therapy (BFT) to help support the system around a person with intellectual disability and complex mental health needs A case study, Marshall K & Ferris I, in Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, 16, 2, 109-118