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Meeting the needs of deaf people who have mental health problems

18 May 2017

The British Psychological Society has contributed to a new guide designed to improve mental health services for deaf people.

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.

Produced for the Joint Commissioning Panel for Mental Health by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the charity SignHealth, Guidance for commissioners of primary care mental health services for deaf people calls for improvement to deaf people’s access to mental health services and offers practical steps to be taken by commissioners.

It is intended for clinical commissioning groups and local authorities, who should be informed by the principles highlighted in this guide, health and wellbeing boards, and service providers across primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

The guide is designed to make readers more familiar with the particular needs of deaf people who have mental health problems, including issues of access, developmental difference, language and culture.

They will also be helped to understand what effective primary care mental health services for Deaf people should look like, be aware of the range of services and interventions that should be on offer and understand how those interventions can contribute to achieving recovery outcomes and improvements in public mental health and wellbeing. 

The difficulties Deaf people face when seeking mental health help are often misunderstood and frequently assumed that booking an interpreter is enough. This does not work for most deaf people, and can often make mental health treatments less effective, as Andrea’s story explains. 

The guide’s recommendations, particularly that deaf people should be able to access a therapist fluent in sign language, have potential to make significant change to the mental health of many deaf people.

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