Improving Access to Mental Health Services for People with Learning Disabilities

In line with the Government’s ‘No health without mental health’ strategy, the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities was funded to find out about the barriers that make it difficult for people with learning disabilities to access mental health services and resources.

We have worked for many years with people with learning disabilities and their families. They tell us that they do not get support to think about mental health or to talk about mental health problems in the same way as they do with physical health.

We want to make it easier for people with learning disabilities and their families to navigate the mental health system and access services when they need them.

As part of this work we surveyed families of people with learning disabilities, people with learning disabilities, and people who work in mental health services to find out their views. As a result of this work we have written a report aimed at commissioners to show how services can better support people with learning disabilities.

We have also produced an easy read guide for people with learning disabilities and their families or supporters to use to think about and help them look after their mental health. The guide includes interactive sections so that anyone using the guide can type in their information and update it when their situation changes.

All the publications we've produced as part of the Improving Access to Mental Health Services project are available to download for free.


Feeling Down: Looking After My Mental Health(PDF)

An easy read, interactive guide to looking after your mental health for people with learning disabilities.


Feeling Down: Improving the mental health of people with learning disabilities (PDF)

A report that looks into the way in which the mental health needs of people with learning disabilities are currently being met.


Feeling Down: Improving the mental health of people with learning disabilities (easy read summary) (PDF)

An easy read summary of the Feeling Down report about the mental health of people with learning disabilities.


My Staying Healthy Plan (PDF)

Use this plan to make decisions about how to stay healthy, when you'll do the things you plan, and who you'll ask to help.


My Feelings Chart (PDF)

Record your feelings in this weekly diary to help you keep track of your mental health, think about what makes you feel unhappy and what can help you feel better.



My Feelings Plan (PDF)

This worksheet will help you think about how you cope with the different feelings you have. Use it to make a note of what helps you so that you can deal with these feelings well.


Things I Feel in my Body (PDF)

Use this worksheet to tell people about how you feel in your body.


GP Information Pack (PDF)

Use this information pack to help you get ready to speak to the doctor about your mental health.

The background

  • Up to 40% of people with learning disabilities experience mental health difficulties. They are often unable to get support from the appropriate services.
  • Prevalence of anxiety and depression in people with learning disabilities is the same as for the general population, yet for children and young people with a learning disability, the prevalence rate of a diagnosable psychiatric disorder is 36%, compared with 8% of those who do not have a learning disability. This shows a real need for people with learning disabilities to be able to access mental health services.
  • People with learning disabilities and family carers are often unfamiliar with how mental health services are delivered and find it difficult to access and navigate them. They are therefore less likely to seek help for mental health problems and, when they do present for whatever reason, problems are more likely to be attributed to their learning disability (diagnostic overshadowing) or classed as challenging behaviour.
  • People often tell us that they get a poor deal from services. There are frequently disagreements about whether they should be treated by mental health services or by specialist learning disability services. People with mild to moderate learning disabilities are at particular risk of falling between the two, with both services denying that they meet eligibility criteria.
  • People with learning disabilities are not seen as being able to make use of 'talking therapies'.  

For more information on this project, please contact Christine Burke on [email protected].