- Prevalence and patterns of mental illness among deaf peopl...
Prevalence and patterns of mental illness among deaf people attending counselling services in the UK
Background: Deaf people may be systematically
excluded from life in a society 'designed' for the hearing and
those deaf people with mental health problems face even greater
isolation. Social workers potentially play huge roles in bridging
the divide between the world of the deaf and the hearing world.
However, not much is known about the patterns and prevalence of
mental health problems in deaf accessing counselling, clinical and
other social services.
People who are deaf appear to suffer common mental health
problems like emotional and behavioural difficulties to a greater
extent than the hearing population although they are no more likely
than the general population to suffer the more severe mental health
problems like psychosis. People with audiological impairments are
also more likely to internalise mental health problems for a
diversity of reasons than are those with normal hearing. The
implications of these findings both for mental health service
design and the professional practice of social workers and
counsellors who work with the deaf are myriad.
First, mainstream mental health services need to make
significant shifts in the way they work. They would either need to
adapt their practice to accommodate audiologically impaired people,
especially those who only communicate through the BSL. This may
involve making specific efforts to bring on board deaf members of
staff as well as training staff in the BSL and in Deaf awareness.
Secondly, mental health service design needs to function at a more
grassroots level, enhancing access to the deaf at community entry
points. Finally, social workers need to increasingly demonstrate
awareness of the specific details of mental health issues in deaf
people and genuinely attempt to bridge the gap between these people
and their hearing world.