“How comfortable is a deaf person, with an interpreter present, at what can be very personal times?” asked Wendy.
Wendy is deaf and has experienced counselling first hand, as she explains in SL First Magazine. It’s an article everyone should read, especially hearing medical professionals or those involved with decision making in the government.
Points are raised that would rarely occur to the average hearing person.
- It is not always appropriate to have another person (interpreter) brought into a counselling session when sensitive, personal issues are being disclosed
- A three way conversation is not as effective as a one-to-one conversation
- Culture differences are huge between the hearing community and Deaf community, and that affects the level of support given – which led Wendy to ask, are there any Deaf counsellors out there?
In answer to her question, yes there are, but due to budget cuts, counsellors who can communicate directly with their Deaf patients, without any delay for interpretation, without any cultural misunderstanding, are slowly but surely disappearing.
SignHealth’s service BSL Healthy Minds is a life-changing Deaf therapy service, and all of our counsellors are Deaf themselves. Those that are hearing can sign fluently in British Sign Language.
However, Hazel Flynn, manager of of BSL Healthy Minds, is hugely concerned about recent changes in the system and is urging England’s Chief Medical Director to reconsider.
“Unfortunately, our service will be cut because in some areas of the country the local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are not able to provide funding. Contracts are being terminated leaving many Deaf people without any access to therapy treatments in their native language, and although some CCGs are willing to pay for a BSL interpreter to work alongside a hearing therapist, this is more expensive and a has a lower recovery rate because of the lack of cultural understanding. It can even lead to more therapy sessions being needed.”
“What is really causing resentment is that, until earlier this year (2014), under the IAPT self-referral system (Deaf people) could have seen a qualified Deaf therapist who was able to work in sign language. That’s no longer the case.”
It’s a huge turnaround from three years ago, when the Department of Health finally recognised that Deaf sign language users responded to therapy more positively when the therapist was also a fluent sign language user.
They invested in building a national service, which we (the Deaf health charity SignHealth) led.
After the first cohort of therapists were trained, the path to good mental health in Deaf people looked promising.
“With this availability of psychological therapies in sign language through IAPT, Deaf people were able to self-refer; GPs were no longer the gatekeepers – or barriers – to treatment. Deaf people responded well to treatment in their own language. The national outcome measure of full recovery after treatment is 44 per cent; we were recording improvements of 75 per cent.”
But from there, due to the disappearance of Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities, our service began to change for the worse, and tragically, we were forced to start making redundancies.
The answer to Wendy’s question is that having an interpreter in the room, for some people, works – only last week we had a man say so via Facebook – but for the majority of Deaf patients, it doesn’t. Deaf therapists are out there and achieving wonderful, life-changing results in the Deaf community, but without decision makers realising this, Deaf mental health will rapidly decline. Even more so than it already has.
Image Credit: Anil Kumar