Access to Mental Health services for Deaf people

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2019 National Disabled Members' Conference
11 July 2019

Conference notes that Deaf people are twice as likely as hearing people to experience mental health problems, yet they do not have equal access to services. Mental health services are often inaccessible for Deaf people. For example members have reported that they are referred to counselling services where the counsellor does not sign and therefore a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter also needs to be present for what should be a confidential session. The Deaf community is small and members often know the BSL interpreter and do not feel able to open up in front of them.

Many Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) expect Deaf people to access hearing services with therapists who don’t sign and don’t have an understanding of issues that affect Deaf people. As a result access to therapists or counsellors who sign is only available in some areas, resulting in a postcode lottery where Deaf people have to travel significant distances to access these services. Deaf people face long waits for mental health services or may not be able to access them at all, putting their health at serious risk.

Conference notes that the Deaf health charity SignHealth is running a campaign called ‘Therapy, the Deaf Way’ asking the government to provide a nationally commissioned psychological therapy service for Deaf people in BSL.

Conference calls on the National Disabled Members Committee to work with the health service group, the NEC and other appropriate bodies to:

1)Lobby the Department of Health and the NHS to provide improved mental health services for Deaf people, including increasing the provision of one-to-one counselling directly through British Sign Language, without the need for an interpreter.

2)Consider supporting SignHealth’s ‘Therapy, the Deaf Way’ campaign.