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Depression and anxiety are two of the most common psychiatric disorders that can affect a person’s mental health. They directly impact how someone feels about themselves and others, how they experience certain situations, how they view life in general, and more. This can lead to negative thoughts and feelings, and even suicide. If you or someone you know are struggling with depression or anxiety and don’t know where to turn, you can find resources in New Jersey on the National Alliance on Mental Health’s website. You can also reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Helpline by calling 1-800-662-4357.

Depression and anxiety rates have been on the rise all around the world for years, with over 10% of the world’s population—about 792 million people—having some kind of mental health disorder in 2017. The rates of anxiety and depression also drastically increased during the COVID-19 pandemic by more than 25%.

This proves that anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders are increasingly relevant to everyone. However, they are particularly prevalent in individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), occurring up to 15% more frequently than in the general population. In this article, we’ll look at the connections between anxiety, depression, and disability for individuals with IDD.

Reasons Why Adults With IDD Suffer From Depression and Anxiety

Individuals with IDD face many barriers in their lives and are often at greater risk of developing health issues. This is also true when it comes to anxiety and depression. Disability and depression are closely linked, as are disability and anxiety. There are many social, biological, and psychological risk factors for people with IDD depending on their specific situation. Here are a few of the main ones that can increase the risk of developing anxiety or depression:

  • Social Isolation – One of the reasons adults with IDD are at a higher risk of suffering from depression or anxiety is because of social risk factors like social isolation. Social isolation is when someone doesn’t get a lot of interaction with other people, which can make them feel alone, cut off from others, and unwanted.

Individuals with IDD are at an increased risk of suffering from social isolation due to their disabilities, as they may not be able to get around on their own, communicate with others, or feel accepted by people. In fact, 40% of individuals in the U.S. who have a disability or chronic illness report feelings of social isolation. Feelings of social isolation can impact how an individual feels and how they view themself. These negative feelings can then lead to the development of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders.

  • Limited Access to Mental Health Resources – Individuals with IDD often need assistance with activities of daily living (ADL) and can also require specialized medical care depending on their particular disability. However, even though they receive assistance from family members and healthcare workers, they can face limited access to mental health resources that the general population has access to.

One factor that can limit access to mental health resources for people with IDD is their ability to communicate how they are feeling. Not being able to tell someone what is going on inside of you makes it difficult for them to get help.

Another factor that can limit access is whether someone is physically able to get to a location where they can receive mental health support. If the individual doesn’t have any friends or family members to transport them where they need to go, then they may not be able to access the resources they need. Even if there are resources available online or over the phone, they may not be viable for a particular individual due to their disability.

Additionally, there simply is not the same level of mental health services available specifically for individuals with IDD. While mental health resources continue to be a focal point and expand, the same needs to be done for services focused on individuals with IDD.

  • Lack of Understanding and Support – Another reason why individuals with IDD have a higher risk of suffering from anxiety or depression is that there is a general lack of understanding and support for their mental health needs. This is true for family members, friends, caretakers, and even medical professionals. The people who first respond to the needs of individuals with IDD—like family members, friends, work personnel, or general physicians—often lack the knowledge and training to properly help them.

Even mental health professionals themselves often have low IDD literacy and therefore don’t understand the needs of the IDD population. This can lead to them not knowing relevant treatments and support options, as well as resulting in individuals with IDD being misdiagnosed and simply prescribed standard psychiatric medications. Because of this, individuals with IDD can continue to suffer from anxiety and depression without getting the help they need.

At New Concepts for Living (NCFL), our mission is to serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and it is the fundamental force that makes us the premier community for adults with IDD in New Jersey. We are committed to caring for and nurturing adults challenged with special needs so they can attain their highest level of wellness, independence, and achievement. Part of this care involves promoting good mental health and working to limit the risk of developing anxiety or depression.

Our meticulously maintained homes and caring staff enable us to provide the highest level of service for the individuals we care for. We also work to continuously improve our services and homes in order to provide the best care for our residents now and in the future.

NCFL also has an Adult Achievement Center Day Program that offers the most robust and diverse calendar of activities for those we serve. We understand that a busy and productive life can help to minimize the likelihood of developing anxiety and/or depression.

We also recognize the need for quality services for every extraordinary individual in northern New Jersey and are committed to expanding. NCFL is currently building new community residences (group homes) in Old Tappan, Mahwah, Hillsdale, and Upper Saddle River—as well as planning to open a larger Day Program Facility in 2023—and is dedicated to finding ways to further expand and grow to better serve our community! You can learn more about the work we domake a donation to support our mission, contact us for more information, or request placement for a loved one today!

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