Research Spotlight

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Department of Developmental Disability Neuropsychiatry

About 2% of Australia’s population have an Intellectual Disability. People with an intellectual disability experience very poor physical and mental health compared to the general population. Mental illness is two to three times more likely in people with an intellectual disability compared to the general population. The tendency for higher rates of mental illness in people with an intellectual disability is seen in children, adolescents, adults and older people with intellectual disability. Vulnerability to mental disorders in this group is due to a variety of biological, psychological, and social risk factors. Despite experiencing higher rates of mental illness, many people with an ID experience major barriers to timely and effective mental health care.

The UNSW Chair of Intellectual Disability Mental Health (Chair IDMH) is unique in being the only academic unit of its kind in Australia. The Chair IDMH established the Department of Developmental Disability Neuropsychiatry, or 3DN, in 2009. Over the past five years the Chair IDMH has developed 3DN into a highly regarded centre of expertise, capacity development, research, and advocacy in the field of intellectual disability mental health (IDMH).

The Chair IDMH and the related department have provided leadership in research, capacity building and teaching at a national level.  Exemplar projects include:

·       The development of a free and innovative eLearning Resource   to train mental health and disability workers in

ID and mental health

·       Leadership of National Audits of ID health content in Medical and Nursing Curricula

·       Release of a National Guide for Mental Health Professionals

·       The training of specialist ID mental health psychiatry Trainees and the development of a training framework

·       Surveys of NSW Health Mental Health Staff Attitudes, Confidence and Learning Needs in IDMH.

·       The development of competencies in IDMH for the NSW Mental Health Workforce

·       Mentoring junior researchers in IDMH, and sponsoring higher degree students in this field.

The Chair is committed to improving the mental health and wellbeing of people with an ID. The next five years will see substantial maturation of the Chair’s program, with clear translational benefits for people with an intellectual disability, their carers, those providing both mental health and disability services and for multiagency capacity building and cooperation. The continued work of the Chair IDMH will ensure that this vulnerable population group is no longer marginalised and does not continue to fall through the gaps. It will ensure that this population is proactively included in health and social services policy and practice, and that potential is maximised for individuals with ID to lead a contributing life.


To find out more about Associate Professor Julian Trollor and his research, go to


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