FASD and Mental Health for Professionals

Happy Mental Health Week! Today we’re looking at mental health and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) from the point of view of health professionals.

It is estimated that 4% of Canadians have FASD. This is a lifelong disability that impacts the brain and body of people exposed to alcohol during fetal development. But we also know that targeted supports and services can help improve outcomes for individuals with FASD.

One in five Canadians experience challenges with mental health. This proportion is high, but the stats are even higher for individuals with FASD. Researchers have shown that approximately 90% of people with FASD experience mental health issues. These numbers show that mental health is an extremely important consideration when discussing needs, supports, and resources for individuals with FASD. At times it can be difficult to serve individuals with FASD because they often live with many overlapping challenges and complicated environmental situations. These issues can lead to frustration for both the individual with FASD and their mental health care provider.

So how can mental health professionals better support individuals with FASD in their practice?

Increase their knowledge and understanding of FASD

FASD is still a relatively new diagnosis that many Canadians are unfamiliar with. Health and social service professionals often aren’t given adequate training on FASD, despite it being one of the most prevalent developmental disabilities in Canada. Training programs for mental health professionals need to make sure that they provide specific information and strategies on how to best support individuals with FASD. In the meantime, professionals should seek opportunities for further training and professional development to ensure they have the knowledge to best recognize, treat, and support people with FASD.

Recognize the signs of FASD

FASD is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because symptoms can be hard to recognize, and diagnostic services are limited. With many individuals with FASD coming into contact with mental health services, mental health professionals are in a prime position to kickstart the diagnostic process. (Read more…)