The Public Health Crisis: Deafness and Mental Health

Published: Jun 18th, 2019

This week, I was sitting in the doctors’ waiting room with my partner and was looking at the noticeboard, which was completely covered with posters, leaflets (you name it!), relating to healthcare, whether it was physical, mental or a traumatic crisis that one may have experienced.

What stood out to me, was the fact that each of these visual posters read “call our helpline” or “call this number” etc. – if only it was this easy!

What if there was a Deaf or Hard of Hearing patient who had been through a traumatic experience such as rape?

What if a patient was feeling severely depressed and suicidal and wanted to reach out for help?

How does this work for us as D/deaf people?

Why is this a public health crisis?

In the past couple of months, we have seen several suicides within the Deaf community that have sent shockwaves through us all. What help is there for us?

As a Deaf person myself, who experiences depression and anxiety; I can tell you that it is not easy. I relied heavily on my own Mother to assist me with making appointments. Not all of us are this lucky, which is why the role of Deaf Advocates is important, to raise Deaf Awareness in all areas of society, making access to services easier.

Deaf people are twice more likely to be affected by mental health problems than hearing people.

Mainstream services seemingly do not possess a great deal of Deaf Awareness. Talking therapies are one of the most effective treatments, not only for Deaf people, but also Hearing people. This has been highlighted in research.

CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is one example of a talking therapy. The sessions involve the patient sitting down with the therapist and discussing their problems. The therapist usually aims to change the patient’s ways of thinking from negative to positive.

I am currently undertaking this method for my depression and anxiety. So far, I feel that it is effective and is teaching me to manage my time more effectively, by slowly adding in more activities in my life. The therapist had to make several adjustments (as requested by me), such as changing rooms, so it did not echo and was not positioned next to the busy road outside.

On the other hand, this may be slightly more difficult for others, for example a patient who relies solely on Sign Language, would require an interpreter. Although, Sign Health, pointed out an issue with this method; the discussions may not be as intimate due to this method of communication, which is an interesting point.

Accessibility?

The lack of access to services such as the local GP surgery which require you to call to make an appointment, and the communication barriers which present themselves to you when you access a service.

Making an appointment with your GP is actually one of the first vital steps you can take if you are seeking support. Having the ability to make an appointment ourselves, not only gives us independence, but also the privacy to be able to explain what we are making the appointment for.

If we are relying on someone to phone on our behalf, this may mean we have to explain the reason to that person, which is not really ideal for most Deaf people who wish to keep their mental health issues private.

To explain this further, when my Mother books me a doctor appointment on the phone, the receptionist always asks what the appointment is for (where is the privacy?!). I then have to explain to my Mother the reason behind the appointment. Although, this does not really faze me, as I have a close relationship with my Mother.

When attending my CBT appointment, before I enter the building (eventually!), I am faced with an intercom (oh, joy!) on the wall, which allows me access to the building. Another issue with accessibility is the lack of Deaf Awareness training amongst mental health practitioners. This does not seem to be prioritised during practitioner training because of the reflection which presents Deaf service users as a ‘minority’, which is fairly true to a point. Perhaps Deaf people do not access the services because of the difficulty in doing so?

I found that during my first session I spent several minutes explaining to my therapist that I rely on lipreading, my level of hearing and suggested some adjustments to enable us to effectively communicate to each other. What if staff were trained beforehand to understand this? This would allow us to use this extra vital treatment time more effectively.

Things to consider when you book a GP appointment for mental health issues:

  • Book a double appointment, to ensure that you have enough time to talk through your problems.
  • Write down your feelings beforehand. It is common to ‘blank out’ when you are suddenly sat down in front of your GP, it can be difficult to say it out loud.
  • Write down any questions that you may have, so you do not forget.
  • It may not be ideal for some, but taking someone who you trust, whether it is a close friend, a colleague or a member of your family, can provide you comfort and support during this difficult time and provide you with communication assistance.

1 in 3 GP appointments are actually related to mental health issues. 

Absolutely anyone can experience mental health problems at any point in their lives.

During the recent Mental Health Awareness week, we have seen ‘The Jeremy Kyle Show’ permanently axed by ITV bosses, following the death of one of their guests on the show.

The news also reported several months ago, two separate incidents which saw two contestants who partook in the popular ITV show ‘Love Island’, sadly take their own lives. Although, worryingly this programme has not been axed. Also as previously mentioned we have seen four Deaf suicides in the past couple of months.

How can you look after your mental health?

One of my past blog pieces (which you can find on the following link below), explains some of the signs to look out for, as well as five things that worked well for me, when coping with my mental health:

https://www.louisedeafawareness.com/post/deafness-and-mental-health

Below are some of the services that are available and accessible for Deaf people who are seeking some support:

Samaritans

www.samaritians.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us

Email: jo@samaritans.org

Text: 07725 909090

Deaf4Deaf

Counselling Service: www.Deaf4Deaf.com

Mind

www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helplines

Text: 86463

SignHealth

www.signhealth.org.uk

The Mix

themix.org.uk/mental-health

1-1 Online chat

Text: “THEMIX” to 85258


Shout

www.giveusashout.org

Crisis text line 85258 (Free UK 24/7 support)

 If you feel at risk of self harm or you are having suicidal thoughts that you may act on, please do check yourself into the nearest accident and emergency department.

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