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Chapter 8 Section G: People with mental health conditions and other disabilities

8G.1: Introduction

This section has information about having a mental health condition and other coexisting conditions or disabilities. Coexisting conditions used to be called ‘dual diagnosis’ or ‘co-morbidity’. However, the contemporary preferred language now is ‘coexisting disability or impairment’.

There is information about having a mental health condition and:

  • Intellectual disability
  • Acquired brain injury
  • Epilepsy
  • Dementia
  • Personality disorder
  • Eating Disorder
  • Disability and physical health

8G.2: Intellectual Disability

Intellectual disability is a condition which impacts a person’s overall mental abilities, for example abstract thinking, the ability to socialise or to manage various areas of life. It’s not always easy to identify mental illness or a mental health condition in a person with intellectual disability. There may be a number of reasons for this. People with intellectual disability:

  • can’t always describe their symptoms to a health practitioner or psychiatrist
  • may not be able to communicate very well or at all verbally
  • may have symptoms that are different from those described in the diagnostic guidelines for mental illnesses
  • may be wrongly assumed to have behavioural problems because of their intellectual disability rather than a mental illness
  • may demonstrate body language that is difficult to interpret
  • may have physical health conditions that produce symptoms similar to mental illness; and/or
  • may experience side effects from medication that confuses health professionals or support workers.

The NSW Council for Intellectual Disability is the peak body representing the rights and interests of people with intellectual disability in NSW. Its website has factsheets and information both in standard and in ‘easy’ English, which can be accessed by clicking here.

The NSW Council for Intellectual Disability can also provide a confidential information and referral service on matters relating to intellectual disability