Having a child who is a Special Education student, presents enough challenges without being told they are mentally ill. The number of children and adults who are both mentally challenged and mentally ill has increased in recent years. Experts are not sure if it is related to an actual increase or better diagnosis. Either way, having an individual in the family with both doubles concerns.
Experts differ on the exact statistics concerning the number of people who have intellectual disabilities and mental illness. The range is from 10 to 70 percent of individuals who exhibit both. The National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland places the number around 30 percent. However, the National Association for the Dually Diagnosed is probably closer to the true statistics, stating that 30 to 40 percent of those with an intellectual disability also are diagnosed with a mental illness. With such a large number of individuals being diagnosed with both, it is important to know how to begin to get the help they need.
There are a number of things that you can do to help a loved one with both.
1. Keep a diary of behavior. Which behaviors are due to frustration or which appear as new behaviors or issues that were not present before.
2. Do research to find therapists, counselors or psychiatrist who specialize in helping the mental challenged. Not everyone has the patience or expertise to help special education individuals.
3. Keep a list of medications your loved one is on. Be sure to take this to the doctor or psychiatrist.
4. Learn about the mental illness your relative has been diagnosed with. The more informed, the more you can help.
5. Above all else, love them as they are. We all have illnesses and shortcomings.
Being informed and tolerant goes a long way in helping an individual who is intellectually disabled and mentally ill. Look for a local support group or online group who can help if any questions arise. After all, they know what you are going through first hand.