11th European Congress Mental Health in Intellectual Disability, Luxembourg 2017
‘Better Mental Health for People with Intellectual Disability’
Providing better care using knowledge transfer and bringing together innovative collaborative networks
September 21-23, 2017 | Luxembourg, European Convention Center EAMHID and University of Luxembourg (Dept. Inside)
In cooperation with APEMH Foundation

Better access to mental health services and better Quality of Life… also for people with intellectual disabilities.

There is no doubt that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) have mental health problems like everyone else and a proofed greater predisposition to mental health problems, three to four times more than in normal population. The reasons of this vulnerability are different from those causing the cognitive deficits and are linked to biological, psychological and social factors. In addition, these problems may often be related to negative experiences (separation, neglect, abuse, etc.). Sometimes these experiences are difficult to understand, to listen to or to bear. They therefore can often go unrecognised or nacknowledged.

The European Association on Mental Health and Intellectual disability has the important aim to promote a new thinking about the “mental health issue” in people with intellectual disabilities.

Indeed, up to this point, mental health issues and problem behaviour in people with intellectual disabilities were commonly referred to as being inherent to the intellectual disability itself, with low intellectual functioning being viewed as a result of a “dysfunctional” or “abnormal” brain situation. It was common practice to “treat” mental health problems in this population without comprehensive mental health assessment and thus abstaining from treatments based on diagnostic criteria and clinical evidence.

People with IDD need a maximum of sanitary attention, and a full access to mental health services, as promoted although through the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The psychological specificities of expression of their mental health problems require very specialised clinical competences and an adapted care environment!

Now, 20 years later, with major advancements in basic and applied research, knowledge on mental health issues specific to people with intellectual disabilities has raised substantially.EAMHID is offering a unique platform in Europe for exchanging advances in the field, disseminating evidence-based practices, promoting competences and skills within professional groups and encouraging research.

However, limitations of these achievements become evident when evaluating the success of the knowledge accumulated in this period being transferred into practice and when assessing the impact our knowledge actually has for the mental well-being and quality of life of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Social participation and inclusion are vital ingredients nourishing good mental health. The same counts for quality of life: a quality of life approach, considering a holistic and person cantered attitude gives a privileged attention to the needs and competences of persons with IDD. It highlights their role in society, considers them as assets and encourage supporters to develop ways of listening to and working with them in a co-productive approach!

The beginning of the 21st century have seen a growing, and appreciate, emphasis on principles and models of normalisation and social inclusion for people with learning and intellectual disabilities. A social model of disability drives professionals and other concerned actors to focus their efforts on reducing barriers and obstacles that society imposes on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and aim above all to improve their quality of life! In supporting individuals to explore and fulfil life as “ordinary”, it is inevitable that we develop closer and more connected working relationships with them. In doing so, not only is there a richness of experience to be gained, but also a great deal of distress, disturbance and pain to be listened to and shared.

With this conference in 2017, EAMHID strives towards a next major step for improving mental health for people with ID, offering co-productive workshops within the traditional congress tracks. This new format goes far beyond classical formats for presenting research at conferences and aims at bringing stakeholders from different sectors together, including people with intellectual disabilities themselves. We are convinced that a congress offering an inclusive setting and taking advantage of more inclusive strategies will offer a better frame for inspiring experiences.

May this congress participate in making advances towards improving the mental health of people with intellectual disabilities, and may this lead to more effective and respectful treatment with person-centred and biographical approaches being more widely used to understand the individual’s mental health challenges, thus going beyond explaining it.

Mental health for people with intellectual disability is definitely more than a health issue!