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Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 1996 Dec;30(6):774-80.

The psychiatric care of people with intellectual disabilities: the perceptions of consultant psychiatrists in Victoria.

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  • 1Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Melbourne, Carlton, Victoria.



This study was undertaken to establish the perceptions of psychiatrists regarding the care of people of intellectual disabilities.


A 28-item self-administered questionnaire was developed, piloted and sent on two occasions to 467 psychiatrists who receive the newsletter of the Victorian branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. The questionnaire incorporated a Likert scale to document the opinions of the respondents.


A response rate of 51.1% was achieved. The respondents indicated that, in their opinion, people with intellectual disabilities receive a poor standard of care in the inpatient and community setting. To improve this situation, the following strategies were recommended: the development of improved liaison between services; improved training for all personnel who provide services to people with intellectual disabilities; the development of greater resources; and support for professionals working in the area. The study also indicates that there is a core group of very interested psychiatrists who are currently practising and that people with intellectual disabilities are accessing private psychiatric services. In addition, the results suggest that diagnostic overshadowing is not a major barrier to psychiatric assessment, and that disorders which were presumed to be commonly overlooked by doctors (such as depression) are in fact frequently being diagnosed.


Despite some positive findings, the majority of psychiatrists who responded held major concerns about the situation of people with intellectual disabilities. To improve the care provided to these people, it is recommended that these concerns are addressed by the psychiatric profession and responsible government departments in conjunction with university departments of psychiatry.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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