Interventions for mental health problems in children and adults with severe intellectual disabilities : a systematic review

Vereenooghe, Leen and Flynn, Samantha and Hastings, Richard P and Adams, Dawn and Chauhan, Umesh and Cooper, Sally-Ann and Gore, Nick and Hatton, Chris and Hood, Kerry and Jahoda, Andrew and Langdon, Peter E and McNamara, Rachel and Oliver, Chris and Roy, Ashok and Totsika, Vasiliki and Waite, Jane (2018) Interventions for mental health problems in children and adults with severe intellectual disabilities : a systematic review. BMJ Open, 8 (6): e021911. ISSN 2044-6055

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OBJECTIVE: Mental health problems are more prevalent in people with than without intellectual disabilities, yet treatment options have received little attention. The aim of this study was to identify and evaluate the effectiveness of pharmacological and psychological interventions in the treatment of mental health problems in children and adults with severe and profound intellectual disabilities, given their difficulties in accessing standard mental health interventions, particularly talking therapies, and difficulties reporting drug side effects. DESIGN: A systematic review using electronic searches of PsycINFO, PsycTESTS, EMBASE, MEDLINE, CINAHL, ERIC, ASSIA, Science Citation Index, Social Science Citation Index and CENTRAL was conducted to identify eligible intervention studies. Study selection, data extraction and quality appraisal were performed by two independent reviewers. PARTICIPANTS: Study samples included at least 70% children and/or adults with severe or profound intellectual disabilities or reported the outcomes of this subpopulation separate from participants with other levels of intellectual disabilities. INTERVENTIONS: Eligible intervention studies evaluated a psychological or pharmacological intervention using a control condition or pre-post design. OUTCOMES: Symptom severity, frequency or other quantitative dimension (e.g., impact), as assessed with standardised measures of mental health problems. RESULTS: We retrieved 41 232 records, reviewed 573 full-text articles and identified five studies eligible for inclusion: three studies evaluating pharmacological interventions, and two studies evaluating psychological interventions. Study designs ranged from double-blind placebo controlled crossover trials to single-case experimental reversal designs. Quality appraisals of this very limited literature base revealed good experimental control, poor reporting standards and a lack of follow-up data. CONCLUSIONS: Mental ill health requires vigorous treatment, yet the current evidence base is too limited to identify with precision effective treatments specifically for children or adults with severe and profound intellectual disabilities. Clinicians therefore must work on the basis of general population evidence, while researchers work to generate more precise evidence for people with severe and profound intellectual disabilities. PROSPERO REGISTRATION NUMBER: CRD 42015024469.

Item Type:
Journal Article
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BMJ Open
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© Article author(s) (or their employer(s) unless otherwise stated in the text of the article) 2018. All rights reserved. No commercial use is permitted unless otherwise expressly granted.
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Deposited On:
03 Jul 2018 13:48
Last Modified:
28 Nov 2023 11:27