I/DD and Mental Illness: Recognizing the Need for Support

Many individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD) face ongoing challenges because of their disabilities. Without support, they are at serious risk of discrimination and inequality in many aspects of daily living. The social injustice and barriers they face impact their ability to secure employment, pursue an education, and live independently.

Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, individuals with I/DD still struggle with discrimination on many fronts. The ongoing stress can eventually wear down emotional defenses, leading to a host of different mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, and more.

I/DD and Mental Health

One area of particular concern critical to the welfare of individuals with I/DD is reliable access to medical care, especially as it pertains to mental health. In far too many cases, people with I/DD suffer unmanaged depression and other mental health issues stemming from physical pain due to their disabilities and emotional pain from social isolation, abuse, and neglect. When unable to obtain the proper care for enduring emotional and psychiatric illnesses, their quality of life is compromised.

Those with I/DD suffering from mental illness can find it difficult to express their need for help. Limitations in comprehension may prevent them from procuring appropriate treatment from appropriate practitioners and programs. 

Sadly, some mental health practitioners perpetuate the stigma that I/DD patients cannot function fully in society and their so-called deficiencies make them apathetic about seeking care. This stigma may also lead to dismissal of care, possibly due to the erroneous belief that treatment wouldn’t benefit the patient and should be an expected characteristic of someone with I/DD.

With increased isolation due to the pandemic, medical services are stretched to the limit and altered in delivery. Virtual appointments are favored over in-person interaction, further complicating accessibility.

Importance of Social Connection

Organizations like ILA provide a nurturing, person-centered environment to individuals with I/DD and who suffer from added mental illness. Individuals learn daily coping skills that enable them to face their challenges, and are also supported through integrated learning and social programs.

Integrated learning in classrooms within the school system also provides the social support many need to prevent and remediate mental illness.

Access to Health Insurance

Health insurance usually goes hand in hand with full-time employment. People with I/DD that are capable but unable to secure steady full-time jobs cannot access these benefits. 

Poverty is not uncommon for those living with I/DD, many of whom cannot secure a regular full-time job, due in no small part to lingering stigmas and discrimination. As a result, they cannot always afford the cost of medical treatment.

Resources for Mental Health Information

Fortunately, there are many supports available, both online and through local organizations like ILA. These resources offer information about services available for I/DD individuals and those living with mental illness. They are intended to help people find the right kind of help along with an avenue to connect with the appropriate health care agencies and providers. An excellent place to start is by contacting the American Association for People with Disabilities. Ensuring that proper support is available is vital to individuals’ overall health and wellness.

The Independent Living Association continues to make a positive impact on the continued well-being of people with I/DD. We provide highly important social integration, programs, and services,, and are proactive in recognizing necessary care. Reach out to ILA today.