In the UK, one week it was Deaf Awareness Week. The next, it was Mental Health Awareness Week (which was when this podcast was recorded).
Yet, not many people realise that deaf and mental health they are very closely linked together.
So in today’s podcast (with transcript included), I share my own thoughts about this link, the struggles that d/Deaf people, my own personal experience with mental health and raise awareness of both topics.
You can listen to the podcast below or scroll down to read the transcript:
This is a good time to be talking about these two topics, as they’re very closely linked together: Deaf and Mental Health.
Now at the time of recording, it is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, and last week it was Deaf Awareness Week as well.
Call it a coincidence but there is definitely a link between the two topics, and the fact that it came at consecutive weeks, well that’s just a coincidence.
But it’s good timing for me to talk about this, to raise BOTH awareness and to make people more aware by how is there a link. Because there people who are not familiar with that.
An overview of mental health for d/Deaf people
For some people of course, it is a sensitive topic and also a personal one as well. But I think it’s safe to say that we live in a time right now where a lot of people working hard to remove the stigma associated with mental health and rightly so.
I think it’s really, really important and that’s why I want to do my but as well in my own way.
When there are issues like low-self esteem, isolation, stress, anxiety, depression…they can all can have an effect on anyone. And when it has an effect on a d/Deaf person, there are some serious consequences that come from that.
Because according to a charity called SignHealth, d/Deaf people are twice as likely to experience mental health issues as the general population. And apparently, I heard that d/Deaf men are also more likely to commit suicide than hearing men.
There are general feelings in the Deaf community. Apparently it is believed that many of them, especially those who are severely or profoundly d/Deaf, they have a fear of being incorrectly diagnosed because of the communication problem that could happen.
So when you are talking to your doctor or you’re going to see a therapist, if there is a communication barrier and there will be if there’s no adequate support there, then there is a chance of an incorrect diagnosis, which lethal now.
The challenges in accessing mental health support for d/Deaf People
The problem is that even though this is happening right now and people know about it and it’s fact, the problem is that is hard for anyone but harder for d/Deaf people to access those support because of the obvious problem, which is the communication barrier.
And even though they (I should say “we”), even though we need to access it, it’s actually very, very difficult because of the communication barrier that exists.
Whether it’s going to GP/General Practice or your doctor or even seeing a therapist, the barrier will be there.
If you think about going to the traditional therapy where a patient sits down with a therapist and that therapist will encourage the patient to talk through the problem and encourage positive thinking and kind of let it out.
And that’s known as CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. And this is normally done one-on-one basis; you have the therapist and the patient.
But this is almost impossible, if not impossible, for those who are severely or profoundly d/Deaf. That person will not be able to communicate with therapist and the therapist would not be able to communicate to the patient.
You might be thinking, “well, what about having an interpreter?”
Well, if you think about it, it does become a bit awkward when that happens. It’s less intimate, it’s less effective and it costs more as well.
You just have to think about it from your own perspective, assuming that you hearing.
Imagine if you are in a room with therapists and you want to talk about whatever problem that you have, how would you feel about having someone sitting there listening and and that person might not be qualified or might be just someone that the therapists know that we don’t know anything about that person.
How will that make you feel? Well it’s the same thing with having an interpreter there just to help the d/Deaf person. It’s going to make it less effective, the whole therapy.
And let’s just forget about using lip reading as well, that’s not going to work. It’s not enough.
You can’t just depend solely on lip reading. It just not come to work. It’s there to kind of like provide an additional support, additional way to communicate, but just depending on that?
It’s not going to work.
An example of deaf patients attempting to access mental health care
And what I would suggest for everyone is to check out a video that’s put together by SignHealth. It highlights the issue and the difficulty that d/Deaf people have when they try to use a local health service.
And it’s very interesting. There’s a case study there and shows the patient trying to get basic health care, basic health and this situation, basic mental health service and support.
And they did provide solutions and support in the end, but it wasn’t easy to do that. And you’ll get an idea of how it works.
So check it out below:
My personal mental health journey as a deaf person
So the general problem for me, maybe other people are different, but in terms of why is mental health issues in the kind of d/Deaf world, Deaf community, it’s because it’s about our struggle to function in what is really a hearing world.
That person might have their own struggle being part of their maybe hearing family.
A deaf child might feel alone in a classroom, which has little to no support. So obviously it just alone.
Maybe you are a university graduate and d/Deaf, and you’re struggling to get a job because, whether we like it or not and obviously we don’t, as soon as dimension that you are d/Deaf in the application, your chances of success is less.
And even if you had that success and you end up working at the job, if there’s a lack of support, well then that also causes issues because you can’t do your job, you feel stressed, you feel anxiety, the list goes on.
And like many people, regardless of whether you’re deaf or hearing, I’ve had my own fair share of struggles as well. And I’ll focus more on the deaf side as well.
But this is the problem that I have noticed recently is that when you face barriers all your life, it has become normal for me. And unfortunately you get used to it and unfortunately it becomes quite numb as well to that feeling.
It just because it kind of become the norm, which shouldn’t be the case, but I don’t know any better.
Throughout my entire time, when you go through primary school and high school, you know you had that support but you still have a struggle and alone. Because I was the only person that is going through that.
Same thing with university; it’s a time where people like to show-off and acting all popular and tough and excited and going out. It’s just a very sociable place.
But it was very difficult time for me and I actually was looking forward to leaving both universities. I wasn’t really that excited about been there. You just get through it, you get your degree, do what you can do and then just move on.
The same thing with school, it’s the same thing; you just get through it, just try your best and you go through it. And despite the setbacks and despite the teachers or lecturers are claiming to my own parents that they’re not confident that I’ll be able to go to university or pass certain exams.
I managed to do it anyway, but it’s just through sheer persistence and hard work, which not everyone will have the energy to do because energy consuming as well.
It’s something that I also faced at pretty much all social events, whether it’s an office party or a networking party or a conference after-party. Even family events and anything like that.
You know it’s funny, because you do feel alone in a crowded room and I think a lot of people can resonate with that as well.
And it’s a struggle, a constant struggle when there were times where I just had to either leave the after-party of an event or get don’t go, and you walk past whether it held in a venue and you can more or less hear the laughter, the commotion or you can see inside and people have a good time.
And obviously you can feel a bit crap about it. You feel very lonely because then I just go back to the hotel room on my own.
And for those who don’t know, I run my own business and anyone in the same position will tell you that it’s a very lonely world when you are running a business, especially by yourself.
I believe it’s an even lonelier world when you are a d/Deaf entrepreneur. It’s much more difficult because people will encourage you and say “you should try to join local groups and events and conferences”, but there is a problem.
It’s that sometime it’s not easy for me to do that because I’m not able to communicate with certain people. And I’m sure there are d/Deaf entrepreneurs out there who would also be struggling with the same thing.
So it’s something that I face every day and there has come a point where I had enough because I got so exhausted that I couldn’t just accept it anymore.
And this is why I’m trying to be more vocal about it and I talk about it more, create videos and write blog posts and just being a bit more interactive on social media about it.
This is why I’m doing it because I’m fed up of it. It’s like, why should we continue doing that? But it doesn’t mean that you are free from mental health issues. It’s not.
My experience with a hearing therapist
Even for me, if I want to access certain support, if I want to see a therapist, that’s quite difficult for me.
Now the support is there but it’s not always easy because 1) to find it and 2) also not easy to find someone who would GET it.
A while back, I went to see someone to talk about an anxiety that I was having and everything I’ve talked about here. Even though that person is qualified, he knows what he is talking about and he did help me to an extent, it’s quite clear that that person is not fully aware of what is it like to be a d/Deaf person.
Of course it’s not his fault. He’s not from that community. He is not from that culture. He didn’t grow up as d/Deaf. He didn’t grow up with people who are deaf around him. And it’s obvious that he’s not fully aware of how to act in that environment.
So it’s not going to work for me and it didn’t work for me in the long term, which means that not going to work for other people as well.
So to get someone to understand you, it’s not impossible, but it’s very, very difficult to find someone who will help you and help you to understand what you’re going through and help you to go through the process as well.
And that’s why there are services out there like SignHealth and Deaf4Deaf. These are a couple of brands / companies out there that are providing therapists for d/Deaf people and the way they’re doing that, either the therapist are d/Deaf themselves and use BSL or sign language as their first language.
Or they are hearing, but they grew up fluent in sign language. They could be a Child of Deaf Adult or CODA (like Wayne Barrow who I have interviewed in the podcast). Or maybe they just trained themselves to be fluent in sign language and they want to help that side of the community as well that. Those services are available.
But again, it’s accessing it, it’s finding the funding for it, which is always a challenge for many people because lack of funding is a huge problem, I’m sure in many places.
You are not alone
If you’re struggling though or you know a person who is struggling, it’s really important that you know this and I need to tell you this.
You’re not alone and I just want you to know that you’re not alone.
I get it and I’m sure other the people around you will get as well. There are struggles in life and it is really difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes, and you feel alone in this problem.
But I can promise is that you’re not alone and you’re not the only one who feels like that. It’s normal to feel like that.
You might not think that it’s a big thing as well. You might be going through something that is a struggle for you, but you’re looking at it from a different perspective and you think, “you know what? Other people are having bigger problems than me, so it’s not as bad as me, so really I shouldn’t complain. I should maybe forget about it and move on because there are more serious problems in the world.”
I agree. Yes, the are more serious problems in the world, but at the same time it’s all relative. If it’s affecting you, then it’s important. I truly, truly believe that.
Just because you see it a small thing, it’s not a small thing because for you it’s a big thing and that’s all that matters.
So I really suggest to reach out to someone, you know, if you are d/Deaf, you can reach out to people like SignHealth or Deaf4Deaf. Just see what you can do with that.
Or if it makes the feel any better, I can try my best to help you. Reach out to me and I’ll do my best.
I’m not qualified therapists, I’m not going to be able to help you to fix that problem, but I will be able to help you get through it and just to kind of manage it as best as I can.
So if you do reach out to me, I’ll do my very best to get back to you as well and help you out, ‘cos you’re not alone.
So I just thought I share this podcast and hopefully it gives you a bit more awareness about what goes on in Deaf community in terms of mental health.
And for those of you who are d/Deaf and reading the transcript, you’re not alone because I’m sure you understand the struggle. I’m sure you get everything that I said.
But I just want you to know that you’re not alone because it’s a scary world out there and there are barriers and I totally get it.
There are barriers every single day, it’s exhausting, it’s challenging and it’s one fight after another and sometimes, you’re just not seeing that wall break down.
But if everyone does it together, if everyone shares that problem together, if everyone help each other, then you’re more likely to see something happen.
But the only way we can do that is if we talk about it more, if we help each other, and if we become more vocal about it as well.
But again, it doesn’t have to be in public. You can be private about it with certain people and there are services out there, support out there, people out there that can help you.
I hope you get something out of it. Let me know what you think. If you have a chance to leave a comment or on social media, just tag me.
I’ll put all the links in the description or transcript and that you’d be able to connect with me there as well.
Let me know what you think and I hope this has helped you in some way….I really, really do…it has helped you.
In the meantime, I will speak to you soon.
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- My personal viewpoint on the definition of deaf* - July 30, 2020
- Hearing privilege: What is it and why it’s important to acknowledge them? - July 23, 2020