Assessing for mental health problems

The first signs of mental health problems in people with learning disabilities can be changes in behaviour (for example, becoming withdrawn or anxious, forgetting skills or needing prompts to do things). If any staff (such as teachers or support workers) notice changes that concern them, they may arrange an assessment to check the person's mental health. If you are worried about the mental health of the person you care for, speak to their GP.

The person you care for should also have an assessment if they are having a crisis. This is to find ways to help with the crisis, and to stop it from happening again.

If there are any signs of a serious mental health problem or dementia, the person you care for should be referred to a psychiatrist who specialises in caring for people with learning disabilities and mental health problems.

What happens in a mental health assessment?

An assessment is a meeting to find out more about the problem and to decide what care and treatment is needed. It should be run by a professional who specialises in caring for people with learning disabilities and mental health problems, but other staff may be involved as well. You should be fully involved, and so should any other people (such as friends) that the person you care for wants to involve in the assessment. However, it's important the person you care for gets a chance to talk with staff alone if they want to. The assessment should take place somewhere the person you care for knows and is comfortable (such as their GP surgery).

Before the assessment starts, staff should explain what it is for, how it will be carried out and how long it will last. Staff should help the person you care for to prepare for the assessment if needed, and you should both have the chance to ask any questions you have.

During the assessment, staff will try to find out more about changes in behaviour and what might be causing them. They will ask about the person's current and past health and about any medication they are taking. They will need to ask sensitive questions (such as whether the person is drinking alcohol or taking drugs), to find out if there is anything in the person's life that could be causing the mental health problem or making it worse.

You should get a summary of the assessment results after it is done, and staff should make sure that you can both understand it. The summary should say what care and treatment could help.

You can ask for another meeting to talk about the assessment after it has finished, if you need one. You can also ask for another assessment, if you disagree with the decisions that were made. It can take more than one assessment to decide what the problem is and what care is needed.

Risk assessment

A risk assessment is a check to see if the person you care for might be unsafe while they have a mental health problem. This could be because they might hurt themselves (either on purpose, or by not looking after themselves properly), or because they might hurt other people (for example, because they are scared).

Staff should carry out a risk assessment if the person you care for has a mental health problem, and repeat it regularly to make sure there are no new risks. If needed, they should make a plan with you and the person you care for to reduce any risks.

  • Information Standard