Supporting Persons with Developmental Disabilities and Co-occurring Mental Illness: An Action Research Project
Wishart, Paul M.
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This paper presents findings from a naturalistic action research project that implemented a WrapAround mental health promotion activity with six individuals dually diagnosed with a developmental disability and mental illness. The project was framed from a strengths based conceptual perspective and questioned how caregivers could better prepare developmentally disabled clients to anticipate and prevent a psychiatric mental health crisis before hospitalization occurs. Facilitators provided monthly health promotion meetings where clients at risk of experiencing a psychiatric crisis were helped to create a team of family members and paid caregivers to ‘wrap around’ them. The teams met regularly and facilitators guided discussions to focus on clients’ strengths, their goals and strategies for success. Data collected from 13 interviews with clients and members of their teams was analyzed to reveal three themes, our findings. First, regular meetings where clients seek and receive support from individuals they value can help address escalating symptoms of mental illness. Second, constant caregiver turnover heightens client anxiety, which in turn exacerbates illness. Third, limited paid in-service and networking opportunities are available to caregivers. These findings invite nurses in the psychiatric field to create similar opportunities to support PDD clients and those who care for them.