Impact of Mental Health Training for Frontline Staff Working With Children With Severe Intellectual Disabilities


Teresa Whitehurst, Research & Development Officer, Sunfield Research Institute, Woodman Lane, Clent, Stourbridge, Worcestershire, DY9 9PB, UK. Tel: +44 01562 881320; Fax: +44 01562 883856; E-mail:


Abstract  The risk factors for young people with intellectual disabilities developing a mental health disorder are higher than those found in the general population, yet training is very rarely available to frontline staff. A recent study in the United Kingdom cited prevalence rates of mental ill health among adults with intellectual disabilities ranging from 35.2 to 40.9%, depending upon the sensitivity of the diagnostic tool used (Cooper et al., 2007). The ability to identify mental health problems is crucial to early intervention, but is particularly difficult when the symptoms of intellectual disability often mask emerging problems and confound differential diagnosis. The literature relating to mental health training focuses largely on changes in knowledge base and attitude, falling short of considering the primary focus of training—its impact upon practice and how this ultimately benefits people with intellectual disabilities. This study highlights the need for training, considers a training package provided to all frontline (direct care) staff in a residential school in the United Kingdom, catering to young people between the ages of 6 and 19 with severe intellectual disabilities, and investigates the impact of training upon practice and its influence upon the organization.