What is the difference between intellectually disabled (challenged) and mental illness?

A person who is intellectually challenged or disabled has limitations in their cognitive functioning and skills, including conceptual, social and practical skills, such as language, social and self-care skills. In other words, they struggle with learning, understanding, processing information and problem-solving.

Intellectual disability is usually present from birth and is evident before adulthood. A parent realises very early that the baby or child is not reaching developmental percentiles as they should. Intellectual disability is a permanent condition, not an illness or disease, and is not treatable. It may present itself as a specific syndrome that includes intellectual disability.

With adequate support, people with intellectual disabilities can learn life and other skills, such as handcraft, depending on their ability. This way, they can become involved in their community and make meaningful contributions. A person with an intellectual disability will need lifelong support and care and cannot live or work independently.

Lake Farm Centre is such a community – where people with intellectual disabilities reside in a community where they are given support and taught skills; they participate in communal living and socialise in an environment where they are accepted and valued.

Any person, irrespective of their intellectual ability, can have a mental illness. Mental illness affects mood (emotions), perceptions (thinking), and behaviour. It usually manifests itself during adulthood; it is unlikely that the illness will present itself before a child reaches puberty. With treatment, the symptoms of a mental illness can be well managed, and the person can live a normal independent life. Persons with intellectual disabilities can have a mental illness. As with anyone with a mental illness, these symptoms are treated with the appropriate medication.