Help for mental health problems

Help for mental health problems

Psychological ('talking') therapies

All care and treatment should be designed around the needs of the person you care for, and should be understandable to them.

Staff should agree which care and treatments to use with you and the person you care for. They should also agree how care and treatment should be provided, for example:

  • what to discuss in each session

  • how long each therapy session should be

  • how often the sessions should be.

Some treatments involve learning new skills, which people with learning disabilities can find difficult. Staff should help them to do this, and you can also help by reminding the person you care for to practise new skills between sessions.

These therapies can help for specific mental health problems:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy for people with depression. This involves finding negative thoughts and behaviour and learning to change them.

  • Relaxation therapy for people with anxiety. This involves exercises such as breathing techniques.

  • Graded exposure techniques for people with anxiety or fears (phobias). This involves finding out exactly what causes the anxiety and learning how to cope with it, until it is no longer a worry.

There are also other treatments that are used for mental health problems in people who don't have learning disabilities, and some of these may help the person you care for. Your healthcare professional should give you more information about any treatments that might help.


Medication can often help with mental health problems. However, a lot of the medication used to treat mental health problems can cause side effects. People with learning disabilities can find it difficult to tell anyone if they are getting side effects, so healthcare professionals need to take extra care. After starting medication, the dose might need to be changed to find what works best. If needed, staff should also have a plan for when and how to stop the medication.

People with learning disabilities often take medication for physical health problems. Before prescribing medication for a mental health problem, healthcare professionals should think about how it would affect any other medication taken by the person you care for (for example, it might stop the other medication from working or cause different side effects).

Children and young people should only be given medication for mental health problems by a doctor who specialises in caring for people with learning disabilities and mental health problems.

The person you care for might also be offered help from local nurses who work with people with learning disabilities. They can help with things like taking blood tests to see if the medication is having any side effects. Staff should also offer support to make sure the person you care for can take their medication at the right time and in the right amounts.

  • Information Standard