The 5th National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan was recently released. It includes welcome and specific acknowledgement of the mental health inequalities faced by people with intellectual disability. It also includes a statement that implementation of the eight priority areas in the plan “requires specific and appropriate application” to people with intellectual disability and other groups with specific diverse needs. Thanks to Jim Simpson, Senior Advocate, NSW CID, for advocating for this outcome and sharing the news.

Below are key extracts from the plan. You can see the full plan here.


People with disability, particularly people with intellectual disability, experience higher rates of mental health problems and mental illness. It is estimated that people with intellectual disability are at least two to three times more likely to have a mental illness than the general population, yet people with intellectual disability experience significantly lower rates of treatment of mental health problems compared with the general population and many encounter significant barriers which prevent timely access to appropriate supports and services. People with intellectual disability also tend to be more vulnerable to the factors that can lead to the development of mental health problems. Mental illness in people with intellectual disability can also be overlooked for a range of reasons, including that the person may be unable to describe their experience and that their behaviours may be misattributed to their intellectual disability. People with intellectual disability and mental illness often have complex needs that require a coordinated approach across multiple service sectors. Integrated, accessible and person-centred supports and services are key to ensuring that people with disability, particularly people with intellectual disability, can experience better mental health and realise their potential.


The Fifth Plan sets out to achieve outcomes in eight priority areas that align with specific aims and policy directions in the National Mental Health Policy. These priority areas do not reflect all the aims and policy directions in the National Mental Health Policy but align with those that are well positioned for change in terms of both need and opportunity. The eight priority areas of the Fifth Plan are:


  1. achieving integrated regional planning and service delivery
  2. effective suicide prevention
  3. coordinating treatment and supports for people with severe and complex mental illness
  4. improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and suicide prevention
  5. improving the physical health of people living with mental illness and reducing early mortality
  6. reducing stigma and discrimination
  7. making safety and quality central to mental health service delivery
  8. ensuring that the enablers of effective system performance and system improvement are in place.