(Photo:Flickr/Scott Ableman)

A new report in the medical journal The Lancet reveals that mental health problems are not only twice as prevalent among deaf people when compared with the general population, but there are also disparities in the access they have to care and the quality of that care.

The report finds that deaf children are unable to communicate and make themselves understood by their families are four times more likely to be affected by mental health disorders and maltreatment at school than those from families that can communicate successfully.

“Deaf patients report fear, mistrust and frustration in health care services. Not only are there communication barriers in clinical situations, but also reported are limitations in deaf patients’ access to health information. The authors point to two documents that have the potential to reduce inequities in access to mental health care and to improve the quality of services. First, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has already been ratified by several countries and documents the positive value of sign language. Second, the UK Government document Mental health and deafness—towards equity and access provides guidelines for best practice. These include making eye contact with the patient, adding visual elements to the explanation, ensuring the patient has a good view of your face and avoiding simultaneous comments during examination: Explain first what you are about to examine, examine the patient, then explain what you have found, each as a separate step.”

The authors conclude: “Improved access to health and mental health care can be achieved by provision of specialist services with professionals trained to directly communicate with deaf people and with sign-language interpreters.”

Source: The Lancet

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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