ARCH Lab Collaborates on Paper Examining Mental Health in Youth with Physical Disabilities

The ARCH Lab recently collaborated on a paper titled “Mental health practices in rehabilitation for youth with physical disabilities: a chart review study” that was recently published in the journal Disability and Rehabilitation.

The purpose of this study was to examine current interprofessional rehabilitation practices for physical and mental health services. To accomplish this, youth (aged 15-24) followed for a physical disability that had mental health problems were identified. Chart reviews were used to identify practices. Mental health-related diagnoses/symptoms, assessments, goals, interventions, and referrals were extracted for inductive content analysis.

Sixty charts were reviewed. Mental health problems included anxiety (n = 53), depression (n = 25), neurodevelopmental (n = 19) and personality disorders (n = 8), often (n = 36) citing more than one. No mental health assessments were found, and in 43%, no goals or interventions were evident. Relevant goals (n = 98) targeted emotional management, autonomy/communication of needs, acceptance of physical condition, socialization, routines/energy levels, school/work supports, and leisure/calming environments. Interventions (n = 104) included emotional management, formal individual/group therapy, links with external supports, routines/activities, reflection/acceptance, and school/work support. Mental health services were received in-house (n = 24) and/or externally (n = 30), plus 18 referrals pending and 14 not referred.

The authors concluded further attention should be directed to the needs of youth with physical disabilities and co-occurring mental health problems as they are not fully addressed by current interdisciplinary rehabilitation practices. Follow-up (services and referrals) should be adapted to the holistic needs of youth and their goals within the rehabilitation context. Rehabilitation professionals can be provided with training to build workforce capacity in mental health screening and have access to guidance when addressing situations related to mental health or referring to external services.