Sarah Powell is a Clinical Psychologist working for BSL Healthy Minds, the deaf psychological therapy service from SignHealth. Here she explains the power of social media within the Deaf community.
A recent article published by BBC journalist Charlie Swinbourne highlights the power of Facebook within the sign language community. It echoes the usefulness of social media within our service, BSL Healthy Minds.
As you may or may not know, we have an active presence online. Twitter and Facebook give us a platform to promote our service and engage with our core service users. It also helps us to educate Deaf people about mental health and wellbeing.
Historically there has been a lack of information about mental health and wellbeing in British Sign Language (BSL). Although some videos have been produced, they’re often limited to video and DVD copies, reducing their reach and proving a costly exercise to send out.
Every day, hearing people pick up key messages about mental health by flicking through magazines, seeing posters or overhearing other people’s conversations. But deaf people don’t have that level of access. If you’re deaf, you can’t listen to the radio or conversations happening around you. You acquire information much later than your hearing peers, if at all.
In 2015 BSL Healthy Minds made the decision to share more BSL content online, posting two minute long BSL videos on our Facebook page. Examples included the benefits of walking, how to practice mindfulness and giving tips about recognising symptoms of depression. The videos have been incredibly well received. One clip in particular, which explained the benefit of reaching out to friends and family to check on their wellbeing, has received over 30,000 views.
Facebook has given Deaf people the opportunity to talk openly about mental health. The BSL Healthy Minds page gives people a place to share their experiences, ask for advice and seek support. Deaf people are so often subject to isolation and many will tell you about the barriers they face when trying to access help, but with the encouragement they find through Facebook, early intervention has become so much more achievable.
A great example of this success can be seen with one of our recent videos explaining the benefits of keeping busy. After posting the video online, numerous conversations evolved, with members of the deaf community actively sharing tips and advice to help their peers. Some suggested starting a new hobby, trying out a new recipe or visiting new places.
Another video explained the importance of taking medication properly, it also touched upon possible side effects and how to deal with them. Since posting that video, some Deaf who have been unsure about the medication they take have visited their GP for clarification. Albeit small, these are important steps to improve to the wellbeing of Deaf people.
Aims for the future
The BSL Healthy Minds team will continue to upload clips in BSL, subtitling them to maximise accessibility. We are aware that Facebook isn’t for everyone and therefore some people will not be able to view our clips, so we are also working on new and alternative ways to reach other people from the deaf community.
Image Credit: Bhupinder Nayyar