As many as two in three Deaf people in the UK struggle with mental health problems, but most find it too difficult to access psychological therapy.
Today, new guidance from the Joint Commissioning Panel for Mental Health (JCPMH) and Deaf health charity SignHealth, calls for an urgent improvement to deaf people’s access to mental health services.
Despite having poorer mental health than the rest of the population, the 60,000 people across the UK who use sign language as their main language often come up against barriers when seeking mental health services.
The difficulties Deaf people face when seeking mental health help are often woefully misunderstood by commissioners of NHS services, who in some cases assume that booking a British Sign Language (BSL)/English interpreter is enough.
This does not work for most deaf people, and can often make mental health treatments less effective as the three-way conversation can cause stress or misunderstanding. Deaf people should be able to choose to see a therapist fluent in sign language, as recommended by the guide.
The guide’s recommendations for commissioners of primary mental health services could make a dramatic change to the mental health of many Deaf people.
President, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Professor Sir Simon Wessely: “Everyone should have equal access to effective mental health services. It is important that commissioners take on board the recommendations within this guide to make this a reality for Deaf people. As Deaf people have increased vulnerability for mental health problems, it is essential that they are able to access effective, evidence based, mental health services that match the specific challenges they face.”
Chief executive, SignHealth, James Watson-O’Neill: “I am really pleased the Royal College and the JCPMH decided to produce this guide with SignHealth. All too often Deaf people are forgotten about and overlooked. It’s great to see recognition of the challenges Deaf people face, and also some of the simple steps commissioners can take. I hope commissioners will see this guide as helpful and begin to improve access in their areas.”