Mental health support for deaf people in Scotland stepped up

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Support services for those affected by deafness are being increased, with mental health issues more prevalent within the deaf community

24th April 2019 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Mental health support for the deaf community in Scotland is being stepped up.

Although there has been much work to reduce stigma around mental health in Scotland, many traditional support services are not easily accessible for those affected by deafness.

Prevalence of mental health issues is up to four times higher for deaf people than mainstream, often due to isolation, social exclusion, discrimination and stigma caused by deafness and the ensuing severe communication barriers they face on a daily basis.

This has sparked a new campaign Connect Us Too, which has deepened the partnership with deafscotland and See Me – Scotland’s national programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination – to raise awareness and understanding around mental health and wellbeing for deaf people.

The charity, along with Deaf Links and ITV SignPost, has launched a series of four related accessible film clips introducing some key information from the See Me campaign. The clips are fully accessible in British Sign Language (BSL) with subtitles and voiceover, to encourage discussions between those affected by deafness and their family, friends, peers, professionals and others. Over 70 people attended the successful ‘memorable experience’, ‘thought-provoking’ and ‘impactful’ event.

“Mental health is a big issue in the deaf sector,” said deafscotland BSL consultant Derek Todd. “A lot of the services that are there for other people are not easily accessible for deaf people.”

“There are information barriers and education barriers. For example, access services such as helplines are easy for many people, as they are confidential and can be phoned 24/7. However, a deaf person isn’t able to just pick up a phone and call whenever they like. Some deaf people need access in their language such as BSL but even access in English is a problem for deaf people. They cannot access services generally, never mind out of office hours. And if they use a BSL / English interpreter or other form of communication or language support, it can take weeks to get a service. If they need to speak to a family member about it, they lose that confidentiality and independence.”

The film clips are designed to raise awareness of mental health issues and encourage deaf people to talk to others about how they are feeling and to build resilience. For many deaf / deafblind BSL users, their first or only language is BSL. Members of BSL communities share their experiences of the struggles they have had and encourage others to talk about it and even ask for support.

Todd continued: “We want to show people that mental health is not something to be negative about. Everyone goes through good mental health and bad mental health. We want to improve awareness, access and communication around mental health, make deaf people feel they are able to speak about it and remove any stigma that is there. It’s about showing them that it’s okay not to be okay.”

Calum Irving, See Me programme director, said: “We at See Me are particularly pleased to have been involved and contributed to this unique project. We’ve learned so much about deaf people, where many of them are unseen or unappreciated, this is really not good. More needs to be done to get mental health organisations in Scotland connecting and working closely together in ensuring that deaf people can access their services locally with accessible inclusive resources for all deaf people, especially deaf / deafblind BSL users.”

Members of Signed Songs R Us performing

Members of Signed Songs R Us performing

Alana Harper, Deaf Links chief executive, said: “Our members have learned so much and are more open to talk about mental health, and most importantly supporting each other more openly. That’s what removing the stigma of mental health is about. Many see that having mental health is bad, but that’s not true, we all have mental health whether it’s good or bad days, and that’s why we want to change it using our ‘Connect Us Too’ resources. More awareness and better access to services and resources is needed for deaf people in Scotland.”

The project has also received the support of the ALLIANCE. Chief executive Prof Ian Welsh said: “This is a fantastic project that the ALLIANCE are pleased to be involved in and supporting. The Self Management Impact Fund is about organisations and individuals working together by empowering their communities, getting people to control their health and wellbeing. We are delighted to be supporting this ground breaking and potentially life changing service on behalf of the Scottish Government and we hope to see many more resources in the future developed for deaf people in Scotland.”

The series of videos is available on the deafscotland Youtube channel and more information can be found on the charity's website