Posted by: Jennifer | October 9, 2009

21 for 21 Mental Wellness and DS

“I hear the voices in my head…”

You may be troubled by this statement if:

  • If you were talking to a 21-year-old without DS
  • You have limited to no experience with adolescents or adults with DS
  • Your background with mental wellness is limited

Young adults with DS and other developmental disabilities have a higher rate of mental wellness concerns. I find this especially true of “high functioning” individuals. And people who have difficulty expressing themselves on a concrete level have significant issues describing their emotional states.

In the case of the opening quote it simply means –

I have thoughts and feelings in my head that conflict. I’m not sure how to address the problem I am facing with/at [insert person or situation of choice].

Having a supportive physician and psychologist is important in determining how to accurately diagnose and address the very real problems of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders.  In contrast, the individual may be facing real life transitions and not know how to sort out external events and internal feelings.

The problem is finding the individual(s) with the expertise to guide the diagnostic process.

In Cincinnati the Jane and Richard Thomas Center partners with the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics to provide mental health services to children and adolescents with DS.

Parents can also find help in the excellent book, Mental Wellness in Adults with Down Syndrome: A Guide to Emotional and Behavioral Strengths and Challenges, by Dennis McGuire and Brian Chicoine.

Keep in mind individuals with DS may have health problems influencing mental wellness including:

  • Sleep Apnea
  • Cardiac Conditions
  • Hearing Loss

It’s important to make sure the obvious possibilities are explored – if a professional says “It’s just the Down syndrome” move to a new professional. Mental wellness is essential to life enjoyment – just as physical wellness is. 

For more information visit :


  1. Hi Jen — I heard this week that 50% of homeless people have mental disabilities. That was a sobering thought and made me so thankful for all the excellent care we have available these days for our DD children. It also made me wonder how to address the issue of homelessness and poverty when you add the mental disability piece into the picture.

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